Music at campaign rallies: effective or defective?

10-29-08 Sheryl Crow
Published On:
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Printer-friendly version

Most people wouldn’t think it, but Sam Moore, Bon Jovi, the Rolling Stones, Heart and the Foo Fighters have something in common. All of those artists have asked one of the 2008 presidential or vice presidential candidates to not use their music at campaign rallies.

However, some artists have chosen to create music to be played at campaigns rallies. Artists such as Sheryl Crow, Kanye West and Stevie Wonder have produced a CD called “Yes We Can: Voices of a Grassroots Movement.” This CD was created specifically to raise money for the democrats before the election, but has also been used at Barack Obama’s campaign rallies.

This music though, might affect how people feel about candidates.

“If the music is upbeat, people are going to pay attention,” ASU orchestra director Tim Russell says. “If the music is depressing, people are going to be affected by it. They might not get into the campaign rally or they might even decide not to vote for the candidate.”

Some songs that Obama has used during his campaign have been “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, “Unwritten,” by Natasha Bedingfield and “Change the World,” by Eric Clapton.

Presidential candidate John McCain has in turn used “Eye of the Tiger,” by Survivor, “Our Country,” by John Mellencamp and “Right Now,” by Van Halen. However, all these artists have protested these songs being used at McCain campaign rallies.

“Survivor has no affiliation with John McCain or Sarah Palin. They have no right to use ‘Eye of the Tiger’ in any way as part of their campaign. Using our music without our permission can give people the impression that we are supporters — this is not the case,” guitarist Frankie Sullivan wrote in a statement, as reported by MTV newsroom.
This appears to be the reason most artists have a problem with their music being played at campaigns: They may not always agree with the candidate.

Whether artists want their music played or not, the music still may affect how people feel about a candidate.

“Music can be very powerful in the correct context,” Russell says. “It really might affect how someone feels in a political situation.”
Samuel Richard, a non-profit organization leadership and management junior, says that the music can change how a person feels about a candidate. Richard, who is president of ASU Students for Dan Saban for Sheriff, as well as writes a quasi-political blog, had a personal experience where the music at a rally helped him decide. Richard went to a Obama campaign rally in January. Richard liked both Hilary Clinton and Obama, but was having trouble choosing. He says when Obama walked out on the stage with U2’s “City of Blinding Lights,” that at that moment he decided to vote for Obama.

“When he walked up with U2 blasting from the speakers, I felt at home with this candidate,” Richard says. “Someone who was on that level with his voters, it made me know he would be able to relate to me.”

Reach the reporter at sheydt@asu.edu.