22 Artists Who Blasted Politicians For Using Their Music Without Asking Permission

M People are not the only musicians who have voiced their disappointment after their music was used at political events.

It must be tough enough as a musician when your art is taken out of context, but we bet it’s twice as hard when you suddenly find your songs being used by politicians whose beliefs you’re rather opposed to.

Over the years, a number of artists have spoken out to condemn politicians for using their music at rallies and political conventions, and here are just a number of the most high-profile (and scathing)...

Calvin Harris

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Prior to her ill-fated speech at the 2017 Conservative Party conference, Theresa May entered the stage to the Rihanna and Calvin Harris collaboration, This Is What You Came For.

Calvin tweeted by way of a response: “Conservative party conference playing my song was not approved – I do not support nor condone happy songs being played at such a sad event.”

Florence Welch

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At the same conference, Florence’s cover of You Got The Love was played at the end, when Theresa May left the stage.

The singer tweeted afterwards: “Today’s use of You’ve Got The Love at the Conservative party conference was not approved by us nor would it have been had they asked.”

Florence also requested that the Conservative party “refrained from using” her music at future events.


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Adele took umbrage with Donald Trump during his 2016 election campaign, when Rolling In The Deep was used repeatedly at his rallies.

In a short but to-the-point statement, her spokesperson said: “Adele has not given permission for her music to be used for any political campaigning.”



Adele’s statement was somewhat more subdued than R.E.M., who were less than thrilled to learn that Trump had been blasting their tune, It’s The End Of The World As We Know It at his rallies prior to the 2016 election.

Frontman Michael Stipe issued a statement telling the then-presidential candidate to “go fuck himself”, making it clear he wanted nothing to do with his ideologies.


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In 2010, Benny and Björn from Abba united to sue a far-right Danish political party for using one of their songs.

The party re-wrote lyrics to Mamma Mia! at a rally, prompting the pair to take legal action.

Benny said: “Firstly, you cannot just rewrite songs as you like and secondly we want them to understand that we have absolutely no interest in supporting their party.”

Bruce Springteen

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Ronald Reagan seemingly missed the ironic message behind Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA when he reached out to use the song in his re-election campaign, only to be rebuffed.

In later years, Bob Dole and Pat Buchanan both used the songs in their campaign, only for the rocker to distance himself from the candidates.


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Steven Tyler sent Donald Trump a cease-and-desist letter when he first started using Dream On at his campaigns in 2015.

True to form, Trump responded on Twitter that he’d already found a “better song” to replace Dream On, adding: “Steven Tyler got more publicity on his song request than he’s gotten in 10 years. Good for him!”

If you just felt your chair shake, it was a monumental eye roll felt around the world.


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It’s not just right-wing candidates that musicians have objected to, though, as Gordon Brown found out when he used James’ hit Sit Down at a Labour conference in 2008.

Singer Tim Booth commented that the leader was “missing the point” of the song by including it, as it was written about the “unity of people and spirit rather than healing the divisions of political parties”.

The Smiths

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In 2010, then-PM David Cameron named The Smiths as one of his favourite bands, much to the chagrin of guitarist Johnny Marr.

“Stop saying that you like The Smiths, no you don’t,” Johnny tweeted at the time. “I forbid you to like it.”


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If anyone was going to try and appropriate a message as clumsy as We Are The Champions in their political campaign, it was going to be Donald Trump, right?

Guitarist Brian May assured one fan in 2016: “I will make sure we take what steps we can to dissociate ourselves from Donald Trump’s unsavoury campaign.”

However, in August 2020, the band admitted it had been “an uphill battle” to get the Trump campaign to stop using their songs.



Rihanna issued a withering response after learning that her song Don’t Stop The Music was being played at a Trump event in 2018.

She wrote: “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!”

Black Sabbath

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Back in 2019, Sharon Osbourne blasted the US leader for using the Black Sabbath track Crazy Train in a campaign video, and making it clear that Trump was “forbidden” from using her husband Ozzy’s music in future videos or at his rallies.

She went on to suggest that tracks by Kanye West, Kid Rock or Ted Nugent – all of whom have publicly endorsed Trump in the past – might be more appropriate.

Brian Wilson and Al Jardine

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Beach Boys co-founders Brian Wilson and Al Jardine wanted fans to know they were not part of a fundraising effort for Trump featuring the current incarnation of the band.

Last month, the Beach Boys performed at a Trump fundraiser in Newport Beach, California. However, that’s the current touring version of the group led by Mike Love ― the band’s other surviving co-founder, who is often at loggerheads with his old bandmates, and is a Trump supporter.

A spokesperson for Brian and Al told Variety: “We have absolutely nothing to do with the Trump benefit today in Newport Beach. Zero. We didn’t even know about it and were very surprised to read about it in the Los Angeles Times.”


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Prince’s estate hit out at Trump after Purple Rain was used at a rally in Minneapolis, the late singer’s home town, in October 2019.

The late singer’s song was played despite the Trump campaign having previously pledged not to do so a year earlier, following its use in the 2016 election race.

“The Prince estate will never give permission to President Trump to use Prince’s songs,” the estate wrote on Twitter, also sharing the letter the then-president’s representatives that confirmed it would not use Prince’s music “in connection with activities going forward”.

Neil Young


The singer announced he was intending to sue Trump in August after one of his songs was played against his wishes during the president campaign rallies despite earlier warnings.

The copyright infringement complaint that was filed read: “This complaint is not intended to disrespect the rights and opinions of American citizens, who are free to support the candidate of their choosing.

“However, Plaintiff in good conscience cannot allow his music to be used as a ‘theme song’ for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.”

Friendly Fires

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The British indie band were enraged to learn that their track Blue Cassette was used as Boris Johnson walked on stage to make his speech at the Tory Party Conference in 2021

In a scathing post, the band – made up of Ed Macfarlane, Jack Savidge and Edd Gibson – said: “Our permission was not sought and we have asked our management to make sure it isn’t used again.”

They then posted: “If we’d have intended them to use it, we’d have named the track ‘Blue Bunch of Corrupt Wankers’.”

The band also shared a headline of a 2017 BBC News story about Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg describing food banks as “uplifting”, adding: “If Boris Johnson needed something uplifting to walk on to, perhaps he should have used the sound of a busy food bank.”

Tom Petty

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The family of the late Tom Petty issued a cease-and-desist order after his song I Won’t Back Down was used at a Trump rally in June 2020.

They said in a statement: “Trump was in no way authorised to use this song to further a campaign that leaves too many Americans and common sense behind.

“Both the late Tom Petty and his family firmly stand against racism and discrimination of any kind. Tom Petty would never want a song of his to be used in a campaign of hate. He liked to bring people together.’’

Rolling Stones


The Rolling Stones threatened to sue Trump in 2020 for using their songs at his election rallies in spite of cease-and-desist directives.

Their 1969 hit You Can’t Always Get What You Want was a popular song for his events, with the band confirming music rights organisation BMI had notified the US president’s campaign explaining that the unauthorised use of their songs would break its licensing agreement.

The Stones had previously complained about Trump using their music during his 2016 campaign.

Village People


In 2020, Village People’s lead singer Victor Willis asked the president to stop playing songs like Macho Man and Y.M.C.A. if he went through with threats to deploy the military on peaceful protesters in America.

Months later, Trump was seen dancing to Y.M.C.A. at a rally, with Victor telling BBC News: “I don’t endorse Trump, I’ve never endorsed Trump, nor has the Village People.”

When asked what he thought about Trump’s dancing, he laughed and added: “Donald Trump does what Donald Trump does. I’ve never seen him actually put his hands up and make the Y.M.C.A. He’s changed it to M.A.G.A. or something.”

Elton John

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Sir Elton was another of the high-profile stars to take issue with Trump, after the former president played Rocketman and Tiny Dancer at “warm-up” rallies.

“Any use of his music should not be seen as an endorsement of Donald Trump by Elton,” a spokesperson said.

The music legend would go on to perform on the White House lawn for Trump’s successor, Joe Biden.

Linkin Park


Linkin Park sent a cease-and-desist letter to Trump, after he retweeted a campaign-style video featuring the group’s track In The End back in July 2020.

The pro-Trump video was posted on Twitter by White House staff member Dan Scavino, which was then shared on the president’s page.

Making their stance explicitly clear, a message was then posted on the band’s Twitter page, which said: “Linkin Park did not and does not endorse Trump, nor authorise his organisation to use any of our music. A cease-and-desist has been issued.”

Twitter later told Sky News that they respond to “valid copyright complaints sent to us by a copyright owner or their authorised representatives”.

M People

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M People founder Mike Pickering voiced his upset after Liz Truss used their 1993 hit Moving On Up to make her entrance at the Tory Party Conference in October 2022.

In a statement on behalf of the band, he said they were “livid”, continuing: “[Truss] won’t be around to use it again for very long. I would imagine. I am absolutely gutted by it...”

He added: “I was just looking at the lyrics. It’s amazing. I hope she takes note. It’s about, ‘Go and pack your bags and get out’...

“I don’t know why they have used it. They are so useless at everything. Who knows?”


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