News & Politics

Marjorie Taylor Green vs. Dr. Dre Joins the Long History of Politicians Beefing With Musicians

From George W. Bush to Donald Trump, politicians keep using songs by artists who'd prefer otherwise.

Image of MTG by Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 and image of Dr. Dre by Michael Kwan is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

As a premier content creator for the Fox News Cinematic Universe, US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has many fans. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dr. Dre is not among them. Earlier this week, the producer and rapper expressed his displeasure over Greene using the beat from his 1999 song “Still D.R.E.” on a social media video clip by telling TMZ that “I don’t license my music to politicians, especially someone as divisive and hateful as this one.”

In the clip, Greene—strutting around the halls of Congress in slo-mo wearing what can only be described as a classic Carmen Sandiego outfit, sans the hat—appears to be on the phone with a not-so-mysterious “DT,” rallying support for 14-time House Speaker vote-loser Representative Kevin McCarthy. Green then takes a selfie with McCarthy, because why not, before the video fades out with a nighttime shot of the Capitol Dome, because also why not?

Anyway, all of that was too much for Dr. Dre, whose representatives reportedly reached out to Twitter to have the video taken down. Those efforts apparently were successful, as Greene later told TMZ that she had been locked out of her Twitter account for using Dr. Dre’s copyrighted work without permission. Greene also explained her use of the music from “Still D.R.E.” by taking a shot at the artist, who was a headliner at last year’s Super Bowl halftime show: “While I appreciate the creative chord progression, I would never play your words of violence against women and police officers, and your glorification of the thug life and drugs.”

If this whole thing makes your brain hurt—and trust us, you’re not alone—then we have some bad news: it won’t be the last time a musician and politician publicly feud over a playlist. After all, it’s hardly the first. For decades, pols—mostly but not exclusively from the GOP—have been using songs from artists who would very much like them to cease and desist. Here are some of the most notable instances:

Barry Goldwater vs. Broadway

In 1964, Goldwater’s presidential campaign changed the lyrics of “Hello Dolly” to “Hello Barry,” prompting Broadway producer David Merrick to threaten the then-Arizona Senator with a $10 million infringement lawsuit. Merrick reportedly felt that any association between the GOP candidate and the hit musical would harm the latter; however, he did not feel the same way about incumbent Lyndon Johnson, whom he permitted to use a “Hello Lyndon” variation.

George W. Bush vs. Et al.

Possibly reflecting his divisiveness as both a first-time presidential candidate and an incumbent, Bush reportedly was rebuffed by not one, not two, not three, but four different artists during his 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns: Tom Petty, John Mellencamp, Sting, and Orleans. That’s a lot! On the other hand, country duo Brooks & Dunn were happy to have Bush use their song “Only in America”—and reportedly were just as thrilled when Barack Obama used the same song during his 2008 campaign. Who says bipartisanship is dead?

Barack Obama vs. Sam & Dave

Sam Moore asked Obama to stop playing the 1967 song “Hold On, I’m Comin’” at his campaign rallies—not because the musical duo found Obama’s politics objectionable, but because the song in question had “such sexual orientations. I don’t want to get graphic with this, but how do you take a song about getting girls and turn it into a political thing? Somebody’s really desperate!” This wasn’t Sam & Dave’s first candidate rodeo—they asked 1996 GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole to stop playing “Soul Man,” which, frankly, completely checks out as a matter of vibes—and it didn’t lead to a lasting feud. To the contrary, Moore later performed at the Obama White House (and also performed at Donald Trump’s inauguration).

Sarah Palin vs. Heart

As a high school basketball player, Palin was nicknamed “Sarah Barracuda”—but as the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate, she had her musical shot swatted by Heart, who demanded that she stop playing their song “Barracuda” at her rallies via a pointed statement: “Sarah Palin’s views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women. The song ‘Barracuda’ was written in the late ’70s as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women. While Heart did not and would not authorize the use of their song at the RNC, there’s irony in Republican strategists’ choice to make use of it there.”

Hillary Clinton vs. Bikini Kill

Drummer Tobi Vail, a Bernie Sanders supporter, asked the Clinton campaign to stop using the song “Rebel Girl” in a 2016 campaign ad. This kind of Democratic infighting is how we got Trump!

Joe Walsh vs. Joe Walsh

A lawyer for Joe Walsh of the Eagles demanded that then GOP Congressman Joe Walsh stop using “Walk Away” via a spicy cease-and-desist letter: “Now, I know why you used Joe’s music – it’s undoubtedly because it’s a lot better than any music you or your staff could have written. But that’s the point. Since Joe writes better songs than you do, the Copyright Act rewards him by letting him decide who gets to use the songs he writes.”

Scott Walker vs. The Dropkick Murphys

In 2015, then Wisconsin governor and corporate subsidy champion Scott Walker took the stage of the Iowa Freedom Summit (co-sponsored by Citizens United!) to the sound of “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” kicking off his ill-fated bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. In response, the union-supporting punk band tweeted “please stop using our music in any way…we literally hate you !!!” We know musicians who use subtext, and they’re all cowards.

Charlie Crist vs. David Byrne

As the Washington Post explained in 2011, musicians can’t do much more than complain loudly when politicians use their songs during public appearances—but they can take legal action when those same pols use their music sans permission in campaign advertisements. Following a 2010 Senate bid that came up short, former Florida governor Crist was sued by Talking Heads singer David Byrne for $1 million over the use of his song “Road to Nowhere” in a campaign video. Crist ultimately settled out of court, apologizing to Byrne on YouTube in what appears to be either a deposition or hostage video.

Donald Trump vs. The Entire Musical World

For all of his incessant, self-aggrandizing hyperbole, there’s one area where Trump really is bigger, better, and more spectacular than any other politician in American history: the staggering number of musicians who have told him to pound sand. Spanning generations and genres and sporting quite a few Grammy winners and members of the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, the list includes Adele, Rhianna, Tom Petty, John Fogerty, Phil Collins, Neil Young, Elton John, R.E.M., the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Queen, the O’Jays, Free, Pharrell Williams, Aerosmith, Laura Branigan, Twisted Sister, Leonard Cohen, Panic! at the Disco, Axl Rose, Luciano Pavarotti, and Prince. Even the Village People said no más to Trump playing “Y.M.C.A.” at his 2011 farewell event at Joint Base Andrews.

Patrick Hruby
Deputy Editor