January 23, 1984

campaign songs



Song | “Bridge over Troubled Water” by Simon Garfunkel

How it was used | It was McGovern’s campaign song.

Endorsed by the artist | Yes.

Simon and Garfunkel played two fundraisers for the Democratic presidential nominee and a “Come Home America!” benefit.


Song | “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen

How it was used | Reagan briefly used the song during his re-election campaign and at a campaign stop in Hammonton, N.J., said: “America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts. It rests in the message of hope in songs of a man so many young Americans admire — New Jersey’s own, Bruce Springsteen.”

Endorsed by the artist | No.

Two nights later, at a concert in Pittsburgh, Springsteen introduced the “Johnny 99” — a song about an unemployed auto worker who turns to murder: “The President was mentioning my name the other day, and I kinda got to wondering what his favorite album must have been. I don’t think it was the Nebraska album. I don’t think he’s been listening to this one.”

Years later, on 60 Minutes, Springsteen said of Reagan’s economic policy: “In my opinion, those were failed policies. The efficiency of the economy is not the most paramount thing. A country is judged not just by its accomplishments, but by its compassion, the health and welfare of its citizens. That’s the core of its spirit.”



Song | “Gonna Fly Now” (theme from Rocky), composed by Bill Conti

How it was used | It was the campaign song for the Democratic presidential nominee.

Endorsed by the artist | No.

Conti said he never heard from Mondale.


Song | “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin

How it was used | It was the campaign song for the Republican presidential nominee.

Endorsed by the artist | No.

Bobby McFerrin protested the use of his song, dropping it from his concerts during the time Bush was using it. He also said he would vote against Bush.

McFerrin later released the ironic video for the song, depicting him in an oval office-like setting, reading news of a “financial meltdown,” then jumping out of a window.


Bush stopped using the song. His next choice was …

Song | “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie

How it was used | Bush made the socialist folk song his second campaign theme.

Endorsed by the artist | No.

Guthrie died in 1967. Because he wrote the song in 1940, it was part of the public domain and Bush did not need permission to use it.


Song | “America” by Neil Diamond

How it was used | The son of Greek immigrants used Diamond’s ode to immigrants as his campaign anthem.

Endorsed by the artist | Unknown


Song | “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac

How it was used | It was the theme for Clinton’s campaign.

Endorsed by the artist | Yes.

Fleetwood Mac reunited to perform the song at Clinton’s inaugural ball — their first live performance since 1982.



Song | “Crazy” by Patsy Cline

How it was used | Perot announced “Crazy” as the theme song of his campaign the night before the election.

“There are millions of crazy people in this country.” he said at a rally in his hometown of Dallas. “And I’ll say tomorrow, I bet it’ll be a crazy day at the polls.”

Endorsed by the artist | No.

Patsy Cline died in 1963.

1996. BOB DOLE

Song | “Dole Man,” a re-working of “Soul Man” by Sam & Dave

How it was used | His campaign song

Endorsed by the artist | Yes, then no.

Sam Moore re-worked the song’s lyrics and even sang the new version for Dole’s campaign. But Moore didn’t write “Soul Man,” so he could not legally grant permission to use the song.

David Porter and Isaac Hayes wrote the song. “Nobody gave permission here,” Hayes said. “It also bothers me because people may get the impression that David and I endorse Bob Dole, which we don’t.”

Rondor Music International, which published the song, threatened to sue Dole for up to $100,000 each time the song was played at an event.

Dole’s campaign agreed to stop using the song.


Song | “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty

How it was used | Primary campaign appearances

Endorsed by the artist | No.

Petty and his publisher sent Bush a cease-and-desist letter. The publisher said that he use of the song “creates, either intentionally or unintentionally, the impression that you and your campaign have been endorsed by Tom Petty, which is not true.”

Petty played the song at Al Gore’s home the night the Vice President gave his concession speech.

Song | “We the People” by Billy Ray Cyrus

How it was used | General election appearances, Republican National Convention.

Endorsed by the artist | Yes, but …

Cyrus and Monument Records offered the song to both the Bush and Gore campaigns for use, partly to promote his upcoming album. Bush accepted.

But Cyrus, a “lifelong” Democrat who performed at Clinton campaign events in 1992, later had second thoughts: “It’s struck me as different, because it’s a working people’s song, y’know, and I’ve never really thought of the Republicans as the party of the working people. Am I wrong?”

Ron Cyrus — Billy Ray’s father and an 11-term Kentucky congressman and union leader — said: “That is a Democrat Song.”


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