There have been numerous instances in which musicians refused politicians permission to use their songs, be it in their personal lives or on the electoral trail. In the UK, one of the most famous and recent examples occurred when the former Smiths guitarist, Johnny Marr, forbade then incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron from listening to his work in 2010.
The rebuttal came after the Prime Minister revealed his admiration for the Manchester band while appearing as a guest on BBC Radio Four’s Desert Island Discs, a few years prior to being elected: “Stop saying that you like The Smiths, no you don’t,” Marr wrote on Twitter. “I forbid you to like it,” he added.
It’s a trick as old as time. Politicians namecheck a band or artist in the faint hope of sounding relevant and relatable in a bid to win over the electorate. Countless politicians on either side of the argument have attempted to weaponise music as a means of appeal, Tony Blair inviting Noel Gallagher to Downing Street in 1997 is one of the most recognisable.
One would argue, however, that politicians referencing music to the disdain of the artist is more endemic in America. It also seemed as if former President Donald Trump drew the ire of so many musicians, more than anybody else in history. This isn’t a surprise, of course, given his bleak political viewpoint and how musicians tend to err on the side of liberal beliefs — for the most part, at least. Over his four year reign, Trump drew criticism from all corners of music, and the list of stars that went public to oppose his use of their music is dizzying, ranging from The Beatles to Rihanna.
One musician who has been particularly unhappy with those working within the realms of politics and using his music is John Fogerty, the frontman of Creedence Clearwater Revival. In the 2016 presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Trump, Fogerty supported Clinton, and stated: “(L)iberals tend to have the little guy in mind”.
Creedence Clearwater Revival were countercultural heroes back in their 1960s and ’70s heyday. The band actively opposed The Vietnam War and Ronald Reagan during a time in which he was campaigning for Governor of California, years before his own presidential campaign. The band were a voice for the righteous, and criticised those born with a silver spoon in their mouth, much like Donald Trump and his ilk.
So when Fogerty witnessed Trump using the band’s classic track ‘Fortunate Son’ time and time again on his 2020 campaign trail, he was incensed. “I could have written that song right now,” Fogerty said of the track in a cease and desist letter sent to Trump’s representatives. “But when Mr. Trump does this over and over, stands there and tells you a baldfaced lie about what he said yesterday, he’s hoping we forget its original intent. He’s using what I have — my record, my song, my voice — and I don’t want people to think I endorse that awful white supremacy that’s so tone-deaf to our American ideals.”
In a 2020 interview with The Los Angeles Times, Fogerty said: “The song is decrying the kind of person he is. He’s absolutely that person I wrote the song about.”
Unfortunately for Fogerty, Trump is not the only Republican to be a CCR fan. In 2005, President George W. Bush was found to have the band on his iPod. However, the most notorious CCR Fanclub member is the late firebrand – and proven arsehole – Rush Limbaugh.
In 2019, when discussing Woodstock and all things countercultural on his radio show, Limbaugh shocked the world by revealing his love for CRR. He admitted: “I love Creedence. I love Fogerty. He probably hates me. But I love John Fogerty. I just loved them. The talent they had. They were on one of those two- or three-year rolls where their creativity was limitless. It knew no bounds.”
We’re sure Fogerty would have had a level of disdain for Limbaugh, as again he embodied everything Fogerty is against, just like his good friend Trump. There’s something about the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival in which Fogerty managed to tap into the Great American Myth, and because many people can’t perceive his wit or message, it’s taken quite literally, which accounts for his legions of Republican fans.
Watch Fogerty discuss the irony of Trump using his music below.