Bruce Springsteen vs. Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, and Pat Buchanan
Good rule of thumb: If you’re a Republican, don’t play a Springsteen song at your rally — especially not “Born in the U.S.A.,” a track that’s not as patriotic as Reagan, Dole, and Buchanan thought. Springsteen requested they all stop playing the song, and beginning in the ‘90s he started performing a dour, acoustic version of the 1984 track at shows in order to more clearly convey its anti-war sentiment.
John Mellencamp vs. Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and John McCain
Like Springsteen, Mellencamp has a bit of a history of telling Republican candidates to stop using his music: He objected when Reagan used “Pink Houses” in 1984, when Bush Jr. used “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” in 2000, and when McCain used both “Our Country” and “Pink Houses” in 2008.
Tom Petty vs. George W. Bush and Michele Bachmann
Petty meant it when he sang that he’d stand his ground in 1989’s “I Won’t Back Down,” a single used in the younger Bush’s campaign before Petty sent a cease and desist letter. That evidently didn’t scare Bachmann, because she played Petty’s “American Girl” when she campaigned in 2011 and, like Bush, also received a cease and desist letter from Petty’s team.
Sting vs. George W. Bush and Al Gore
Unlike most musicians who ask politicians to stop using their songs so it doesn’t seem like they’re endorsing them, Sting requested that Bush stop playing “Brand New Day” simply because he, an Englishman, didn’t want to get involved in the U.S. election. “It’s not a polite thing to do,” his manager at the time, Miles Copeland, told Salon. He also added that Sting would be telling Bush opponent Gore to stop using “Brand New Day” as well, but that, according to reports, never happened.
Foo Fighters vs. John McCain
McCain’s campaign playlist was shorted when Foo Fighters found out he was playing “My Hero.” “The saddest thing about this is that ‘My Hero’ was written as a celebration of the common man and his extraordinary potential,” they said in a statement, the AP reported. “To have it appropriated without our knowledge and used in a manner that perverts the original sentiment of the lyric just tarnishes the song.”
Neil Young vs. Donald Trump
Trump announced his bid for president with the help of Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” to which Young immediately objected. In a statement, he said that Trump was not authorized to use the song. The Canadian citizen also revealed that he was “a supporter of Bernie Sanders.”
Steven Tyler vs. Donald Trump
The Aerosmith frontman first asked Trump to stop using the band’s “Dream On” at his rallies in August 2015 — but Trump didn’t listen, so Tyler followed up a few months later by sending the candidate a cease and desist letter stating that Trump doesn’t have permission to use the track and that “it gives the false impression that [Tyler] is connected with or endorses Mr. Trump’s presidential bid.” His attorney clarified to EW that “this is not a political nor personal issue with Mr. Trump” and that “simply, one must get permission from the music creators.”
Adele vs. Donald Trump
Adele wouldn’t even let Spotify play her music, so it’s no surprise that she also stopped Donald Trump from continuing to play “Rolling in the Deep” and “Skyfall” at his rallies, saying through a rep that she had “not given permission for her music to be used for any political campaigning.”
Rolling Stones vs. Donald Trump
Trump’s usage of Rolling Stones’ songs prompted a stubborn stalemate with the legendary rockers. After the Republican candidate played the group’s 1981 hit “Start Me Up” to celebrate his Indiana primary win, the band issued a statement demanding he remove their tracks from his event playlist. Trump, who’d pulled from their discography throughout his campaign, insisted that while had had “no problem” with the Stones, he has the rights to use their music.
Rihanna vs. Donald Trump
The pop star discovered that 45 was playing her tune “Please Don’t Stop the Music” at his midterm election rallies thanks to a tweet from an attendee (Washington Post White House bureau chief Philip Rucker). She immediately reacted, tweeting, “Me nor my people would ever be at or around one of those tragic rallies!”
Pharrell vs. Donald Trump
The commander in chief used Williams’ hit song “Happy” at a public event held hours after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, and the singer’s lawyer immediately issued a cease and desist letter. “On the day of the mass murder of 11 human beings at the hands of a deranged ‘nationalist,’ you played his song ‘Happy’ to a crowd at a political event in Indiana,” Williams’ attorney Howard King wrote in the letter, per CNN. “There was nothing ‘happy’ about the tragedy inflicted upon our country on Saturday and no permission was granted for your use of this song for this purpose.”
Earth, Wind, & Fire vs. Republican National Convention
Axl Rose vs. Donald Trump
The Guns N’ Roses frontman was opposed to the president using his band’s music at political rallies, but he made headlines for a certain Twitter rant in which he explained that the Trump administration used “loopholes” to get around the legality issue. “Unfortunately the Trump campaign is using loopholes in the various venues’ blanket performance licenses which were not intended for such craven political purposes, without the songwriters’ consent,” he wrote before adding. “Can u say “sh–bags?!”
ABBA vs. John McCain
McCain loved ABBA. In fact, he once told Blender that ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and “Take a Chance On Me” were in his top 10 favorite songs. But the Swedish band wasn’t willing to take a chance on McCain when he selected one of their singles for his 2008 campaign.
Sam Moore vs. Barack Obama
A Democrat was asked to stop using a song for a change when Sam and Dave’s Sam Moore requested that Obama stop playing “Hold On, I’m Comin’” at rallies in 2008. In a letter to Obama, he wrote that “it is thrilling … to see that our country has matured to the place where it is no longer an impossibility for a man of color to really be considered as a legitimate candidate for the highest office in our land” but also clarified that he had not endorsed Obama and his vote “is a very private matter between myself and the ballot box.”