Over the years, many musicians have publicly objected to having Donald Trump use their songs during his rallies and campaign events.
After Guns N' Roses frontman learned that "Sweet Child O' Mine" was being played at the president's rallies, Rose fired off a series of tweets accusing Trump of using licensing loopholes to ignore his request to stop playing the band's music. "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," Rose tweeted on Nov. 4, 2018.
On Oct. 27, 2018, the day after the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead, Trump played Pharrell's 2013 summer hit "Happy" at a rally in Indiana, according to reports. Pharell's attorney Howard King sent a cease and desist to Trump with a statement regarding the usage. "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," the letter read.
If you go way back to when Trump first announced he would be running for president at the Trump Tower in 2015, you may remember that Neil Young took issue with Trump's use of "Rockin' in the Free World." "Donald Trump was not authorized to use 'Rockin' in the Free World’ in his presidential candidacy announcement," a spokesperson for the musician's Lookout Management said in a statement in 2015. Young reiterated his feelings on his official Facebook page: "Legally, he has the right to, however it goes against my wishes." In July 2020, he tweeted that he "was not OK" with Trump playing "Rockin' in the Free World" and "Like a Hurricane" at an event South Dakota's Mount Rushmore
According to Rolling Stone, Prince's estate had to issue a statement after various Trump rallies played "Purple Rain." "The Prince Estate has never given permission to President Trump or The White House to use Prince's songs and have requested that they cease all use immediately," Prince's half-brother Omarr Baker wrote on Twitter Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.
Trump didn't stop at the rock genre when choosing his campaign playlists. After it got around that his rallies included songs like "Rolling in the Deep" and "Skyfall," a spokesperson for singer Adele made clear she wanted no part of it. "Adele has not given permission for her music to be used for any political campaigning," her spokesman told The Guardian at the time.
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones have tried to stop Trump from playing the band's music on several occasions, including after Trump accepted the bid to be the Republican Party's nominee in 2016 to the tune of "Start Me Up." "The Rolling Stones have never given permission to the Trump campaign to use their songs and have requested that they cease all use immediately," a Stones spokesperson said in a statement to The Daily Beast.
At a Trump rally in Washington D.C. Sept. 2015, R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World" played while Trump walked up the podium. Word of the band's song playing at the rally prompted the band's official Facebook page to release a statement: "While we do not authorize or condone the use of our music at this political event, and do ask that these candidates cease and desist from doing so, let us remember that there are things of greater importance at stake here. The media and the American voter should focus on the bigger picture, and not allow grandstanding politicians to distract us from the pressing issues of the day and of the current Presidential campaign."
According to CNN, Elton John was among the major names the Trump administration reached out to to perform at his inauguration. John's team declined. But even before then, John's team publicly denounced any use of his songs for Trump's benefit. "Elton's music has not been requested for use in any official capacity by Donald Trump. Any use of his music should not be seen as an endorsement of Donald Trump by Elton," John's publicist said, according to the British newspaper The Telegraph.
In 2015, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler's reps sent a demand to Trump's team to stop playing "Dream On" at his rallies, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Unlike other similar demands, Trump publicly announced he would stop. "Even though I have the legal right to use Steven Tyler's song, he asked me not to," Trump tweeted. "Have better one to take its place!"
The anthemic "We Are the Champions" played while Trump walked up to the stage during the Republican National Convention in July 2016. Queen member Brian May released a personal statement regarding the usage: "Regardless of our views on Mr. Trump's platform, it has always been against our policy to allow Queen music to be used as a political campaigning tool. Our music embodies our own dreams and beliefs, but it is for all who care to listen and enjoy."
O'Jays lead vocalist Eddie Levert spoke out in 2016 about the use of "Love Train" during Trump's presidential rallies. "I wish him the best, but I don't think he's the man to run our country. So when he started using 'Love Train,' I called him up and told them, 'Listen, man, I don't believe in what you're doing. I'm not with you. I don't want you to use my voice. I'm not condoning what you're doing," Levert told Billboard.
Over the weekend of Nov. 3, 2018, Washington Post bureau chief Philip Rucker tweeted that Rihanna's 2007 hit "Don't Stop the Music" was playing during one of Trump's Tennessee rallies. Rihanna herself responded to the tweet, saying: "Not for much longer... me nor my people would ever be at or around one of those tragic rallies, so thanks for the heads up philip!"
After Donald Trump had authorities clear peaceful protesters from across the White House in June 2020, Village People co-founder Bruce Willis asked that the president stop playing the disco group's hits like "Macho Man" and "Y.M.C.A." at campaign events. "Sorry, but I can no longer look the other way," he wrote.
The family of the late rocker objected to the Trump campaign playing "I Won't Back Down" during a June 20, 2020 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. "Tom Petty would never want a song of his used for a campaign of hate. He liked to bring people together," the family wrote, adding that it had sent the campaign a cease and desist request.
Linkin Park issued a cease and desist against President Trump after a two-minute campaign video was posted that included their song "In the End." “Linkin Park did not and does not endorse Trump, nor authorize his organization to use any of our music,” the band tweeted July 18, 2020. The tweet with the embedded video was subsequently taken down and in its place now states, “This media has been disabled in response to a report by the copyright owner.”
The Creedence Clearwater Revival founder issued a "cease and desist" order on Oct. 16 condemning the Trump campaign's use of his song "Fortunate Son." "He is using my words and my voice to portray a message that I do not endorse," Fogerty wrote in a tweet.
The British rocker sent the Trump campaign a cease-and-desist letter over use of his song "In the Air Tonight" during rallies, according to documents obtained by TMZ. Collins' lawyers followed up after it was used again during an October event: "That use was not only wholly unauthorized but, as various press articles have commented, particularly inappropriate since it was apparently intended as a satirical reference to Covid-19."