Donald Trump vs. Rock’n’Roll

Music and politics have always had an intimate yet complicated relationship. Many of the most timeless and popular songs have been scribed into collective cultural significance because they summarise the feelings gripping a nation. Some provide cutting satirical lyrics against injustice, some seek to simply tell a story of the downtrodden, others attempt to offer a positive solution to what they see around them.

Politically charged music comes in a myriad of forms, however generally speaking it encapsulates left wing values, rejects the pursuit of wealth, and promotes the artist’s view of positive social change. This is until a certain wispy haired figure turned this on its head.

‘It seems the more people love to hate him, the more powerful he gets. The more people he upsets along the way, the further this dynamic is exacerbated.’

Donald Trump has had a very eventful campaign, he is now all but confirmed as the republican presidential candidate. Among other things, he has enlisted the help of some of the most iconic rock songs to help him win supporters. Like almost anything he does, this made the artists very unhappy.

Neil Young

What’s a little heartbreaking about this one is that Donald is a outspoken and long time fan of the Canadian icon Neil Young. After he added “Rockin in the Free World” to his campaign repertoire, Young’s people immediately rejected claims that any permission was given, and stated that Neil Young was a supporter of Bernie Sanders. Presumably out of respect for one of his hero’s the song was pulled from his rallies, only to have Bernie adopt it at his.


Adele and her team have repeatedly been named as the music industry’s most influential collective, mostly because people adore her music. Perhaps this is why Trump decided to use “Skyfall” and “Rolling in the Deep” at his campaigns. Adele’s team stated quickly that she had “not given permission for her song’s to be used for any political campaigning”. Seeing has he continued to use both the songs long after this rather meek request, we can assume it takes something a little more aggressive to get the man’s attention.

Michael Stipe’s reaction to Trump using “It’s the End of the World as we Know It” is one of the most covered moments in his campaign, despite the profanities. Through REM’s bassist Mike Mills Twitter account, Stipe said this:



In true Trump style, he managed to submit a scathing retort to Aerosmith’s numerous cease and desist letters claiming he had no legal grounding to use their song “Dream On”. He said “Even though I have the legal right to use Steven Tyler’s song, he asked me not to, have better one to take its place!” Trump added, “Steven Tyler got more publicity on his song request than he’s gotten in ten years. Good for him!”

The Rolling Stones

Last but not least, the rock God’s songs have been used throughout the entirety of Trump’s campaign to “pump up” the crowd. They issued a statement saying “The Rolling Stones have never given permission to the Trump campaign to use their songs and have requested that they cease all use immediately.” Interestingly it is not strictly illegal for political candidates to use artists songs without their permission. All they need is a blanket license from performing rights organisations, however it is down to the artist to make it clear they are not affiliated with whatever is being promoted politically.


The sad part of all these prominent figures denouncing Trump and his campaign is that it seems to have the opposite effect than intended. The more people speak up about their opposition, the more it is reported on (this blog is just as guilty) and the more attention the man gets, which has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt helps him to progress in his campaign.

It seems the more people love to hate him, the more powerful he gets. The more people he upsets along the way, the further this dynamic is exacerbated. Mike Mills said stated after their public Twitter row “Personally, I think the Orange Clown will do anything for attention… I hate giving it to him.”