Without Their Permission: A History Of Musicians Being Pissed At Donald Trump For Using Their Music

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Throughout the course of his presidential campaign, the Republican nominee Donald Trump has managed to piss off more than just your liberal friends on Facebook, various minorities and Ted Cruz. A growing list of music legends have at one time or another expressed their anger at the Trump campaign using their songs at his rallies and campaign events. The list has actually reached a point where we felt it might be helpful to lay out the list, the song(s) involved and when the dust-up happened.

First, though, it should be noted that the Trump campaign doesn’t necessarily have to ask these bands for their permission. In an interview with The Frame, Alex Pappademas, the executive editor at MTV News, cleared the air on the matter.

“Any venue large enough to have a major party’s political convention in it, such as the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, they all have ASCAP and BMI licenses, which entitle you to use anything in the ASCAP and BMI catalogs. (Venues pay) a blanket fee. You have to pay ASCAP, but it’s never a transaction with the band. It’s always with those two publishing companies.”

As for any legal recourse any of these bands might have, Pappademas addressed that as well.

“They can sue for false endorsement and I imagine it’s a fairly complicated process, but you can’t just shut it down by saying, Stop using my song. Technically, Donald Trump doesn’t have to.”

So yeah, they can complain, but not much else. Man, Trump is so punk rock.

As of today, here are the bands and singers who have made this exclusive, amazing list, probably the greatest list in the world.

Who: Neil Young
When: June 2015
The Song: “Rockin’ in the Free World”

Trump used Young’s classic song when he announced his presidency and predictably, Young wasn’t thrilled. He issued a statement saying that and much more, most notably that he was Bernie Sanders’ fan. That too was not much of a surprise.

Who: REM
When: September 2015
The Song: “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)”

REM didn’t hold back when they found out Trump was using their song. The band’s bassist Mike Mills took to Twitter to vent, while the band was slightly more diplomatic about the matter when addressing it via a Facebook post.

Who: Steven Tyler
When: October 2015
The Song: “Dream On”

In a twist, it wasn’t that Tyler was mad that Trump was using the Aerosmith classic, it was that he was pissed that the band wasn’t making any money from it. Tyler wrote a piece for The Huffington Post, citing Trump using “Dream On” as yet another example of people using a band’s music and the band not being compensated. It seems like Tyler felt that Pandora’s Box had really opened up and musicians were getting the shaft. That does not sound the least bit amazing to me.

Who: Twister Sister
When: December 2015
The Song: “We’re Not Gonna Take It”

In this case, Trump not only asked permission to use the song, but the band granted it, with the band’s frontman Dee Snider saying at the time:

“He asked me,” Snider tells Newsweek. “He’s a friend. He didn’t want a Neil Young situation. So he contacted me and said, ‘I’d like to use “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”‘ I said, ‘Look, we’re friends, and I really like you, but we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything.’ We do agree on a number of things, but not everything!”

It turns out one of the things that they didn’t agree on ended up proving to be too much. Following Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims, the band revoked the permission. They also cited Trump retweeting White Supremacists and aligning himself with them as reason for their change of heart.

Who: Adele
When: February 2016
The Songs: “Skyfall,” “Rolling in the Deep”

Come on, Donald. You don’t mess with Adele. I thought everyone knew that. Regardless, Adele found out that Trump was playing her songs to warm up the crowd at his rallies and promptly embarked on a campaign to set the record straight and make it clear that she did not give him permission to do so.

Who: The Rolling Stones
When: May 2016
The Songs: “Start Me Up,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Sympathy for the Devil”

Wrapping up the Republican nomination in Indiana, Trump closed out his rally with the Stones’ classic “Start Me Up.” This prompted a sharp rebuke from the legendary band, who also said he didn’t have to permission to play any of the other songs of theirs that he was playing at his rallies. The campaign responded by saying that Trump curates playlists himself to which we all kind of responded, “so?”

Who: Queen
When: July 2016
The Song: “We Are the Champions”

Trump made an appearance on the first night of the 2016 Republican National Convention to introduce his wife Melania and his choice of entrance music became instant news until, well, this happened. We had all moved on, but Queen hadn’t. The band took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to make it abundantly clear that Trump was not given permission to use their song.

Who: Earth, Wind & Fire
When: July 2016
The Song: “September”

File this one under “adding insult to injury.” Not only was the band’s song “September” played without their permission at the convention, but was done so by the house band. The house band. Not cool, guys. Not cool at all.

Who: The Estate of George Harrison
When: July 2016
The Song: “Here Comes the Sun”

Trump’s daughter Ivanka used the late Beatles classic as her walk-on music when she appeared at the convention Thursday to introduce her father and quite simply, Harrison’s estate were not on board.

Yet, British manners prevailed and the estate was gracious enough to offer up an alternative song for the campaign to use in the future.

So nice of them. Really.

Who: Luciano Pavarotti
When: July 2016
The Song Aria: “Nessun Dorma”

The family of the late opera singer immediately expressed their displeasure with the singer’s song being used without permission at the convention, saying in a statement:

“As members of his immediate family, we would like to recall that the values of brotherhood and solidarity which Luciano Pavarotti expressed throughout the course of his artistic career are entirely incompatible with the world view offered by the candidate Donald Trump,” the statement said.

The statement goes on to say that not only is it wrong to use the aria because they never asked permission, but because it’s essentially bastardizing the meaning of the song. Yet in all fairness, it’s not as if Trump has shown much of an interest in meaning or details.

Who: The Rolling Stones (again)
When: July 2016
The Song: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (again)

Trump managed to anger the Stones again Thursday night when he again played the classic song after accepting the Republican party’s nomination. The Stones made it pretty clear on Twitter how they felt about things via a tweet sent out on Friday.


Points go to Keith Olbermann for his response.

Well played, Keith.