[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. It could be the last word on Trump and music. But you never know, right? – AC]
Just before he stepped aboard Air Force One for the trip that would take him from Washington, D.C., to Florida and into his life as an ex-president, Donald Trump held one last rally at Andrews Air Force Base. It was a send-off from the faithful that featured music from artists who wanted nothing to do with him.
The crowd heard the Village People’s YMCA, and Tiny Dancer from Elton John as he left the stage. Both of those artists had at one point told the Trump administration to stop playing their music at rallies and public events.
Victor Willis, the Village person who dressed as a cop or naval officer, started complaining to Trump’s people in June 2020, demanding that he stop using both YMCA and Macho Man, culminating in a cease-and-desist order that Trump ignored.(Willis had a theory that Trump was singing “M-A-G-A” in his head while the song was playing.) Elton John tried for years to disassociate his music from Trump with zero success.
The list of angry artists is a long one: The Beatles (over Here Comes the Sun); Eddie Grant (Electric Avenue); R.E.M. (Losing My Religion, Everybody Hurts); Leonard Cohen’s estate (Hallelujah); Linkin Park (In the End); Nickelback (Photograph); Panic! At the Disco (High Hopes); Prince (Purple Rain); Queen (We are the Champions); Tom Petty’s people (I Won’t Back Down); Neil Young (Rockin’ in the Free World); and Rihanna (Don’t Stop the Music). Some reacted with public statements while others tried legal remedies.
Nothing worked. The truth is that there’s little in copyright and public performance laws that could stop Trump from using whatever songs he wanted at his rallies.
But this insistence on using unsanctioned music was only part of the musical legacy Trump leaves behind. Consider the following.