Politics make you feel like dancing?Campaign songs add color to message-->
By Robert Behre (Contact)
The Post and Courier
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Now that the red lights of the presidential candidates' buses are long gone from South Carolina, it's time to analyze an often-overlooked aspect of their campaigns: which rock 'n' roll songs they chose to play.
Frankly, the candidates' tastes ranged from cleverly fitting to the rather obvious to the downright puzzling — sometimes at the same rally.
For instance, Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" seemed a natural for Arizona Sen. John McCain, who often played it in his successful push toward winning this state's GOP primary.
But another musical selection at his victory rally at The Citadel was a bit more puzzling: ABBA's "Take a Chance on Me."
Blaring rock songs have become a staple of many modern campaign appearances. They fire up the crowd, pump energy into a room and stall for time until the candidate can show up for his or her speech.
"Rock 'n' roll is the devil's music, which is precisely why presidential campaigns should play rock music," joked Christopher Lamb, a College of Charleston communications professor and author of the book, "I'll Be Sober in the Morning: Great Political Comebacks, Putdowns, and Ripostes."
Lamb said instead of candidates playing a song such as
"Honesty," he would prefer they actually practice it instead. Actually, no campaign played that Billy Joel standard, and they also shunned other rock classics like Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff,"
Eric Clapton's "Cocaine," or The Beatles' "Taxman."
"I think you've barely scraped the surface," Lamb said, adding that he also didn't hear anyone play Janet Jackson's "Nasty," Radiohead's "Creep," the Eurythmics' "Would I Lie to You?" Isaac Hayes' "Theme from Shaft" or Green Day's "American Idiot."
North Carolina Sen. John Edwards — whose campaign deliberately played up the fact that he was born in South Carolina — often employed Jon Bon Jovi's "Who Says You Can't Go Home." In an interview, he told The Post and Courier that it was his favorite song on the campaign trail.
Just a day later, the state's Democratic voters basically told him that yes, you can come home, but you still might finish no better than third when you do.
When Illinois Sen. Barack Obama held a rally at the College of Charleston in January, it was sunny and 78 degrees — a dramatic change from the wintry weather in the earlier states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
So it was a natural that his campaign blared U2's "It's a Beautiful Day." Just in case some in the audience weren't aware of his campaign theme, he also played India Arie's "There's Hope" and Earth Wind and Fire's "Shining Star." Obama shied away from ABBA, even though their names sort of rhyme.
Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign used at least one song that Obama also used: "Suddenly I See," by K.T. Tunstall, but it made more sense when she used it, since it's about a woman.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani didn't use songs as much during his campaign stops here, not even the Clash's "Rudie Can't Fail." Maybe that was because it was a different spelling — or maybe he had a premonition that he would in fact fail here, finishing in sixth place.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee plays the bass guitar, but his musical skills have not helped him much in collecting GOP delegates.
"Maybe he just hasn't found the right song," Lamb said, "or the right singer."
Tom Scholz, the chief songwriter and founder of the band Boston, actually wrote Huckabee last week complaining that he was using Scholz's 1970s smash hit "More Than a Feeling" without his permission.
"Boston has never endorsed a political candidate, and with all due respect, would not start by endorsing a candidate who is the polar opposite of most everything Boston stands for," wrote Scholz, adding that he backs Obama. "By using my song, and my band's name, Boston, you have taken something of mine and used it to promote ideas to which I am opposed. In other words, I think I've been ripped off, dude!"
Fred Bramante, who was chairman of Huckabee's New Hampshire campaign, called the allegations ridiculous. He said he attended dozens of Huckabee rallies in New Hampshire and other states and never heard Huckabee play "More Than a Feeling," other than when former Boston band member Barry Goudreau campaigned with the governor in Iowa in October.
"Governor Huckabee plays 'Sweet Home Alabama.' Does that mean Lynyrd Skynyrd is endorsing him? He plays 'Louie Louie.' Does that mean The Kingsmen are endorsing him? To me, it's ridiculous," Bramante said. "Never once has he said, 'The band Boston endorses me.' "
Lamb said he hasn't met anyone who bases his vote on which songs a candidate plays, but he said voters might have used songs to rule them out.
"When (Independent candidate Ross) Perot began playing Patsy Cline's "Crazy," it reminded voters too much of Perot," Lamb joked. "There are worse ways to pick a president, and America has obviously found them."
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.