Smiths Guitarist Takes Stand Against Trump Playing Bands Songs At Rallies

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The use of popular music by political campaigns and rallies is commonplace but not always authorized or appreciated by the artists. Recently, Johnny Marr, guitarist and co-founder of the rock band The Smiths, has objected strongly to using the group’s music at events held by former U.S. President Donald Trump.

According to reports, The Smiths’ song “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” was played during a Trump rally in South Dakota last year. Footage of the song, originally released in 1984, subsequently went viral. Journalists noted that The Smiths’ music was frequently featured at Trump”s rallies leading up to the 2024 election.

Johnny Marr’s Objections

Marr took to Twitter to voice his disapproval upon learning of the song’s use, stating, “Never in a million years did I think this could happen.” This clash of political ideologies is unsurprising given that Marr has previously spoken out against and distanced himself from right-wing politicians.

Source Wikipedia/ Johnny Marr. Image: Donna Santisi / Redferns

In contrast, Morrissey, The Smiths’ former frontman, has become a polarizing figure for supporting far-right political stances and figures in recent years. Popular music at political rallies and campaign events has become more common as politicians seek to connect with new audiences, often choosing songs they believe will make them appear relatable or appealing.

Johnny Marr Joins the Bandwagon

Marr joins the ranks of numerous other artists, including Adele, Journey, and M People, who have sent cease and desist letters or publicly condemned the unauthorized use of their music to promote politicians and policies they disagree with.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/ Gus Stewart/Redferns

Politicians on both sides of the ideological spectrum have faced criticism over their musical selections. The backlash highlights the tension between a politician’s right to freely express themselves and an artist’s right to control how their creative works are used.

Ben Jacobs’ Report

According to Ben Jacobs, a reporter, including The Smiths’ music in former U.S. President Donald Trump’s pre-rally playlist has initiated conflict. As Jacobs reported, Trump’s rally in South Dakota featured the hit song “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” from The Smiths’ 1984 album.

Source: Citaty slavnych osobnosti/ The Guardian/Christopher Thomond

The conflict began when Ben Jacobs, a journalist, reported that The Smiths were included in Trump’s pre-rally music ahead of his rally in Laconia. Soorin Kim, an A.B.C. News reporters shared footage of The Smiths’ music playing more frequently than expected at Trump’s 2024 rallies.

Trump is Not the First to Be Told No

Marr has disagreed with traditionalist politicians before, contrasting sharply with Morrissey, The Smiths’ former frontman. Rolling Stone compared how Morrissey has become an alienating figure recently while Marr has spoken out against right-wing politicians appreciating The Smiths.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

When former British Prime Minister David Cameron selected “The Charming Man” as one of his favorite songs on B.B.C.’s Desert Island Discs in 2010, Marr tweeted that Cameron did not like The Smiths and forbade him from enjoying their music.

Marr’s Reaction is Not Shared by Everyone

Marr’s reaction contrasts sharply with his former Smiths bandmate Morrissey, who has become increasingly polarizing recently. The contrast between Marr and Morrissey mirrors a larger debate on the ethics of politicians using music in their campaigns without artists’ consent.

Source: Flickr/ Man Alive

Other musicians like Adele, Dr. Dre, and Journey have also objected to politicians associating themselves with their work. By refusing permission for his music to be used to promote political agendas he disagrees with, Marr aims to avoid polarizing The Smiths’ fans or being seen as endorsing exclusionary ideologies.

Freedom of Expression

Politicians have broad free speech rights but cannot co-opt an artist’s creative work for political purposes. When politicians select music greatly at odds with the musician’s values or public image, it can appear disingenuous or manipulative.

Source: Flickr/ Redfishingboat (Mick O)

For many musicians, allowing their music to be associated with a particular politician or party risks alienating portions of their fan base or damaging their public perception. This is especially true for more polarizing political figures.

Musicians Rejecting Politicians

Politicians frequently employ popular music at campaign rallies and events to connect with audiences. However, musicians do not always consent to their work being utilized for political purposes. The Smiths join a long list of musicians who have forbidden politicians from using their music.

Source: Flickr/ RTP

Adele, Pharrell Williams, Rihanna, and Bruce Springsteen are just a few of the artists who have requested that Donald Trump not play their songs at rallies and events. When music is deeply personal to artists and fans, its appropriation for political messaging can be seen as an affront. For Marr and others, preventing such co-opting is a matter of principle.

Dr. Dre’s Cease and Desist

Dr. Dre, the renowned rapper and producer, recently issued a cease-and-desist letter to Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. This came after Greene used Dre’s song “Still D.R.E.” in a video celebrating Kevin McCarthy’s election as House Speaker.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In a statement, Dre said, “I don’t license my music to politicians, especially someone as divisive and hateful as this one.” According to reports, the video featuring Dre’s song has since been removed.

Journey’s Feud Over Song Usage

According to various reports, Journey guitarist Neal Schon has sent an official cease and desist letter to his longtime bandmate, keyboardist Jonathan Cain, regarding Cain’s performance of Journey songs at former United States President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Source: Wikipedia

Cain, married to Trump advisor Paula White-Cain, played Journey hits during an event hosted by the America First Policy Institute at the estate. Schon believes Cain had “no right” to use Journey’s music for political purposes, as it can be “harmful” to the band’s reputation. In a statement, Schon said, “Journey is not, and should not be, political.”

M People’s Displeasure with Liz Truss

The British pop group M People were dismayed to find their 1993 hit “Moving on Up” used by Liz Truss, a Conservative Member of Parliament, when she walked onstage at the Conservative Party conference. Mike Pickering, a founder of M People, expressed disappointment on Twitter that the song was associated with the current government.

Source: Facebook/ M People

Pickering stated that while Truss could express her personal beliefs, utilizing M People’s music was “extremely deleterious to the Journey brand.” The band did not authorize using their song, and Pickering pointed out that the Labor Party had properly obtained permission to use the track in the 1990s. Pickering emphasized that he does “not want [his] song being a soundtrack to lies.”

Adele’s Rejection of Trump’s Use

Adele, the acclaimed British singer and songwriter, objected strongly to Donald Trump using her music during his 2016 presidential campaign rallies. According to reports, Trump played Adele’s hits “Rolling in the Deep” and “Skyfall” at campaign events to energize crowds despite lacking permission from Adele and her label to do so.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Adele’s management stated that the artist had not authorized her music to be used for any political campaigning. Fans reacted angrily on social media, with one commenting, “Noooooo!! Not Adele!! Must Trump ruin that too?!”. Another wrote “I think she’s cringing as much as we are … wish he would drown in the deep. The bigot.”

Friendly Fires vs. Boris Johnson

The British indie band Friendly Fires recently objected to former Prime Minister Boris Johnson using their music to promote the Conservative Party. According to reports, Johnson played Friendly Fires’ track “Blue Cassette” before delivering a keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference in October 2021.

Source Wikipedia

In a statement on social media, Friendly Fires asserted that they did not endorse the Conservative Party’s use of their music. They claimed permission was not sought to use the track, and the band asked their management to ensure that the song would not be used again for political purposes.

How Musicians Are Fighting Back Against Unauthorized Use

Artists increasingly object to politicians appropriating their music for campaign purposes without consent. Many musicians do not wish for their creative works to be associated with politicians whose values and policies they disagree with. In recent years, several high-profile musicians have taken legal action against politicians for unauthorized use of their music.

Source: Unsplash/ Austin Neill

Cease and desist letters are a common first step, as they signal an artist’s objection to the unauthorized use and request that it stop immediately to avoid potential legal claims. For politicians and campaigns, obtaining proper licenses for music used at public events is the best way to avoid legal trouble and respect artists’ rights over their creative works.

Can Politicians Legally Use Songs Without Permission?

Permission from musicians and songwriters is typically required to use their music in advertising, marketing, and promotions. However, legal precedents have established some exceptions for political campaigns and rallies.

Source: Unsplash/ Austin Neill

According to copyright law, the unauthorized public performance of copyrighted music can be considered fair use if it meets certain criteria, such as being noncommercial or for educational purposes. Politicians seeking election often play popular songs at rallies and campaign ads to appeal to voters and cultivate an image.

Political Use Under Fair Use Exceptions

While candidates can use short music clips under fair use exemptions, musicians still frequently object to the unauthorized use of their work, especially when they disagree with the politician’s platform or ideology. Several musicians have sent cease and desist letters to politicians demanding they stop playing their music at events and in promotional materials.

Source Unsplash/ Alexandre St-Louis

While politicians may legally play short music clips or lyrics at rallies and in campaign materials under fair use exemptions, they risk provoking musicians’ ire and damaging their public image. Candidates should be reasonable in their music choices and consider the preferences of artists and songwriters, as unauthorized use of music can be seen as disrespectful appropriation and hurt a campaign more than help it.

What do you think?

200 Points
Upvote Downvote
Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

Sally, a dynamic and viral writer, has taken the literary world by storm with her exceptional storytelling prowess. With an uncanny ability to tap into the collective consciousness of her readers, she crafts narratives that resonate deeply and linger long after the last word is read.

Born with a creative spirit, Sally honed her writing skills from a young age, cultivating a unique voice that blends emotion, wit, and social insight. Her work spans a wide spectrum, from poignant short stories that tug at the heartstrings to thought-provoking essays that challenge conventional thinking.

Leave a Reply


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings

Homeowners Were Remodeling Kitchen When They Came Across A Mysterious Safe

Mike Rowe Says Four-Year Degrees Are Now Shameful