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With the debate in town, here's your guide to music in politics

Ronald Reagan used “Born in the USA,” by Bruce Springsteen. (The Boss was not happy.)

Donald Trump used “Rockin’ in the Free World,” by Neil Young. (Young supports Bernie Sanders.)

John McCain used “My Hero,” by The Foo Fighters. (Dave Grohl was “infuriated.”)

As the Republican candidates take the stage in Milwaukee tonight (Tuesday), what better time to examine the use of music – approved or not – by politicians.

Wisconsin’s own have had their share of controversy.

In January, Governor Scott Walker took the stage in Iowa to the song “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” by Dropkick Murphys, the Celtic punk band from the Boston area. Let’s just say their response, via Twitter, was kinda strong. 

Walker also angered John Mellencamp when the Governor's recall campaign played "Small Town." Mellencamp let Walker know he supports collective bargaining and union rights.

When Rep. Paul Ryan ran for Vice President in 2012, his campaign intro song was “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” by Twisted Sister. Dee Snider, the band’s frontman issued a statement saying “I emphatically denounce” Ryan’s use of the song.

A few of the current candidates also have had their run-ins:

Boston vs. Mike Huckabee (“More than a Feeling”)

Rush vs. Rand Paul (“The Spirit of Radio,” “Tom Sawyer”)

Axwell and Ingrosso vs. Marco Rubio (“Something New”)

And, so you don't conclude musicians only have gripes with Republicans, then-candidate Barack Obama ruffled feathers in 2008. At rallies, his campaign used the song “Hold On, I’m Comin,” by Sam and Dave. But Sam Moore had not endorsed Obama. “My vote is a very private matter between myself and the ballot box," he wrote. (Turns out Moore played at an inaugural ball for Obama and later at the White House.)

Controversies aside, MSNBC put together a list of songs the candidates used when they announced their runs for the presidency. 


Sen. Ted Cruz
Aaron Tippin - “Where the Stars and Stripes and Eagle Fly”

Sen. Rand Paul
John Rich - “Shuttin’ Detroit Down

Dr. Ben Carson
Eminem - “Lose Yourself”
Irving Berlin - “God Bless America”
Katherine Lee Bates and Samuel A. Ward - “America the Beautiful”
Julia Ward Howe - “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”

Mike Huckabee
Montgomery Gentry- “Where I Come From”

Rick Santorum
Santorum for President - “Take Back America”

Senator Lindsey Graham
James Brown - “I Got You (I Feel Good)”

Jeb Bush
Pitbull - “Rain Over Me”
Zac Brown Band - “Homegrown”

Donald Trump
Neil Young- “Rockin’ in the Free World” 

Gov. Bobby Jindal
Garth Brooks - “Callin’ Baton Rouge” 

Gov. Chris Christie
Bon Jovi - “We Weren’t Born to Follow”


Sen. Bernie Sanders
Woody Guthrie - “This Land is Your Land”
Irving Berlin - “God Bless America”

Martin O’Malley
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - “I Won’t Back Down”
U2 and Mary J. Blige - “One”
Journey - “Don’t Stop Believin’ ”

Hillary Clinton
Sara Bareilles - “Brave” 


Want to learn more about music in political campaigns?

Read this article in Rolling Stone

Listen to a recent NPR Diane Rehm Show

Watch this video from Wisconsin Public Television:





Director of Digital | Radio Milwaukee