Tom Petty – I Won’t Back Down

US Senator John McCain might hold the record for most times, for using songs without the permission of the artists. He used Van Halen’s Right Now. He’s also had John Mellancamp upset for using “Our Country.” Heart didn’t like McCain spinning “Barracuda.”

Other songs McCain pinched without approval: John Mellancamp’s “Pink Houses,” The Foo Fighter’s “My Hero,” Abba’s “Take A Chance on Me,” Bon Jovi’s “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” and Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty.”

These are from McCain’s 2008 run for President as a Republican. He lost to Barack Obama.

Are there more?

Tom Petty objected to the Arizona Senator using “I Won’t Back Down.”

The general lyrics about not giving up in the face of adversity do fit well for an election campaign theme song. It was also a popular song on the radio following 9/11.

Not again!:

Petty had his 1989 song copped again, but this time by a non-politician. Petty got co-writing credits on Sam Smith’s similar-sounding “Stay With Me” (2014), even though he didn’t think it was such a big deal.


Sting – Brand New Day

It’s probably a love song, of a person in a relationship wishing they could start over. Brand new days, turning the ship around, starting over, turning back the clock… but these lyrics are all speech cliches politicians frequently employ. No wonder then, that this song has been a popular choice for campaigners.

The Sting song has the distinction of being appropriated by both the Republican and Democrat parties in the US, and for the same election! George W. Bush (Republican) and Al Gore (Democrat) battled for the presidency, while snapping their fingers to Sting. This was in 2000.

Sting didn’t like either of them using his song. We could stretch this into sounding nonpartisan.

Partisanship is like when a person or organization is a staunch defender of their candidate or political party, quite rigidly. It is not a flexible stance. Your side has the answers. Compromise? Never. Working together with “the other guys,” for common goals, is not on the menu.

So, nonpartisanship by the book means an individual or organization such as a think tank or social service provider, is not affiliated to a political party or candidate. It can also relate to elections for government offices that do not go by political parties. This is common at the city/local government level and for school boards.

More reflectively, nonpartisanship carries other understandings.

A nonpartisan could be someone who is very open-minded, politically. Unofficially, it could be a position of indecision at the present time. Or they are apathetic or ignorant.

Saying you are non-partisan could be a white lie to avoid fractious political discussions, even if you are stuck hard on your beliefs, privately. You just don’t feel like getting into it.

More slyly, declaring oneself above the fray of petty politics, and thus, nonpartisan, could be a fallacious argumentative tactic. That is, saying, “our” side is above the dickering, small-mindedness of our opponents that focus on political conflict… we transcend politics and just focus on what is right or what matters most. This tactic is designed to make it seem like opponents are not as worthy. But it’s highly partisan. It’s a partisan non-partisanship.

Still others may claim non-partisanship to draw attention to themselves, as being somehow superior or more evolved, in a narcissistic manner?

Lou Reed – Good Evening Mr. Waldheim

Kurt Waldheim was a Nazi oficer that later came to be the head of the United Nations. Lou Reed sings about putting controversial people in ironic positions of power, when you consider that the United Nations champions equal treatment of all.

He sings about the “common ground.” This usually means finding what ideas people share to unite them. Reed seems to mean this as giving other groups their fair shake, respect and acknowledging their past sacrifices and hardships.

Examples in the bouncy rocker are double standards for Reed: that some seek common ground with other groups in society, but not Jews? It is to him a reflexive anti-Semitism that is given a free pass. Reed feels this is hypocrisy from some people, like civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. Champions of racial equality in America can better appreciate what Jewish people have endured.

Kris Kristofferson – Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down

A 1990 (dud) concept album from a country singer! Third World Warrior included this song, with Kris stating that his country kills babies, children and farmers, in the fight against communism.

It is not easy to make light of innocent civilians getting killed in wars. It certainly happens. There is often more concern for killed US soldiers, than their victims, innocent or not. The Korean and Vietnam wars apparently had enormous civilian death tolls. Today, targeted killings, such as that of Osama bin Laden, and using more precise weapons, are strategies hoped to reduce this carnage.

Bob Roberts – Wall Street Rap

Well, it’s not passable for rap, and the lyricism is not up to Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues, though maybe this expecting too much. Bob Roberts is really actor Tim Robbins, playing a right wing Senatorial candidate in the eponymous 1992 film.

The character made money on Wall Street, the financial centre perhaps, of the USA. Seeking political office, he extols in song the selfish money making of investment bankers and ilk screwing people over, going past the bounds of ethics and law, hoping to not get caught.

Of course, this is satire, and fun, because free market folk singers are rare.

Sometimes, a parody backfires when those that are the targets enjoy the jibes at them? Still others may take umbrage at being presented as “straw men,” having their actions and activities exaggerated and misrepresented. But it wouldn’t be funny or entertaining if spot-on accurate.

Whatever, it’s a good movie, with a song pre-dating the Occupy Wall Street movement!

Junior Reed – One Blood

Jamaican reggae artist also sang for Black Uhuru. This is perhaps his most well-known song.

Soldiers, police, mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers, people of different tribes and those with different skin color: Reid sings we all share one blood. Instead of behaving like vampires hunting each other, let’s acknowledge we share commonalities.

This is hopeful and true, if simplistic, when it comes to reducing conflict in cities, countries and the world.

Rage Against The Machine – Without A Face

A 1996 update to Woody Guthrie’s song, Deportee, about illegal immigrants to the USA.

To Rage Against The Machine, these undocumented people don’t just cross borders but graves to make new lives for themselves. Then poorly treated, they give up their souls. Yet, without a face, their plight can go unrecognized.

Government permission with a “visa” is required to legally enter the USA. Visas come with expiry dates, meaning those that came legally may remain illegally.

Estimates for how many illegal immigrants there are range from 7-30 million, an imprecision that is not illuminating. Most are from Mexico.