13 Artists Who've Hit Out At Donald Trump For Using Their Songs

The Village People and Rolling Stones are among those who've tried to stop the US president.

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 used by Donald Trump.

Over the years, a number of artists have spoken out against the US president for using their music at rallies, political events and campaign videos.

Here’s a look at some of the most high-profile cases...

Rolling Stones

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The Rolling Stones threatened to sue Trump earlier this year 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

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Back in June, 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.”

Linkin Park

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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”.

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.

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.’’

Neil Young

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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.”

Prince

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Prince’s estate hit out at the US president 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 president’s representatives that confirmed it would not use Prince’s music “in connection with activities going forward”.

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.”

Black Sabbath

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Last year, 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.

Rihanna

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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!”

Adele

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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.”

R.E.M.

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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.

Aerosmith

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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 ten years. Good for him!”

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

Queen

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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.