Canadian music legend Neil Young was one of the first musicians to tell Donald Trump to back off after Trump used the classic “Rockin’ In The Free World” during his official presidential campaign announcement in 2015. Saying Trump was “not authorized” to use the song, Young’s statement also made it clear where he stood on the political spectrum.
“Neil Young, a Canadian citizen, is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for President of the United States of America,” his statement read.
Five years later, Young is still at odds with the Trump campaign, In August 2020 he filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Trump for using both “Rockin’ In The Free World” and “Devil’s Sidewalk”. Filed in a New York federal court, the complaint says Young “in good conscience cannot allow his music to be used as a 'theme song' for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.”
Rockers R.E.M. are among the musicians who have issued a cease and desist notice to Trump. On the 2016 campaign trail, Trump would use the band’s hit “It’s The End of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” at his rallies.
Donald Trump tweeted a Nickelback meme that led the Canadian rockers to hit him with a copyright notice. The meme had already been circulating for years in which Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger holds up a photo and sings, “Look at this photograph, every time I do it makes me laugh” while users edit in hilarious images. In Trump’s version, the photo is of Joe Biden and family. Within 12 hours, the tweet was blocked with a notice saying, “This media has been disabled in response to a report by the copyright owner.” “Photograph” saw a 500 per cent increase in online single sales in the days following the takedown.
The family of the late singer requested Trump stop using “Purple Rain” at his 2018 rallies. “The Prince Estate has never given permission to President Trump or The White House to use Prince's songs and have requested that they cease all use immediately,” the statement read.
A spokesperson for Adele issued a statement saying the then-presidential candidate did not have permission to use her songs at his 2016 rallies. “Don't vote for him,” Adele later said of Trump, per Vulture. “I am English, but what happens in America affects me, too. I am 100% for Hillary Clinton. I love her, she's amazing.”
When the “Work” singer found out her music was being used at Trump rallies in 2018, Rihanna had her team send out an immediate cease and desist notice after tweeting that “me nor my people would ever be at or around one of those tragic rallies.”
Aerosmith are another band that have been battling with Trump since 2015. After the Trump campaign used “Livin’ On The Edge” again in 2018, the band sent a formal cease and desist letter citing, “By using 'Livin' On The Edge' without our client's permission, Mr. Trump is falsely implying that our client, once again, endorses his campaign and/or his presidency, as evidenced by actual confusion seen from the reactions of our client's fans all over social media.”
The estate of the late George Harrison voiced their displeasure at the Harrison-written Beatles song “Here Comes The Sun” being used at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Stating that the song was used without the estate's permission, Harrison’s official Twitter account took an extra dig at Trump by writing, “If it had been ‘Beware Of Darkness’, then we MAY have approved it! #TrumpYourself.”
Earth, Wind & Fire
After “September” was played at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Earth, Wind & Fire issued a statement saying the “unauthorized” use of the song was “against our wishes.”
In July 2020, Linkin Park sent out a cease and desist notice after Trump tweeted a video using the band’s “In The End” over footage of his inauguration speech and various campaign rallies. “Linkin Park did not and does not endorse Trump, nor authorize his organization to use any of our music. A cease and desist has been issued,” the band tweeted.
In 2017, Trump called Luciano Pavarotti a “great friend” leading many to believe he had no idea the Italian opera singer died in 2007. Pavarotti’s widow and daughters asked the Trump campaign to stop using his rendition of the Puccini aria “Nessun Dorma” at his events. His family doubled-down on their anti-Trump sentiment by telling the New York Times, “the values of brotherhood and solidarity which Luciano Pavarotti expressed throughout the course of his artistic career are entirely incompatible with the worldview offered by the candidate Donald Trump.”
Instead of taking legal action against Trump for using his “Born In The USA” on his 2016 campaign trail, Bruce Springsteen publicly announced his support for Hillary Clinton and campaigned in support of her. While Trump continued to use Springsteen’s song, it would get booed by the crowds at his rallies from that point onward. Calling him “buffoonish” and “so stupid,” in 2020 Springsteen said, “I don’t know if our democracy could stand another four years of his custodianship. These are all existential threats to our democracy and our American way of life.”
Back in 2015, the Rocketman said he didn’t want his music used at American political campaign rallies, saying Trump’s “political views are his own, mine are very different, I'm not a Republican in a million years,” he said, adding, “Why not ask Ted Nugent? Or one of those f***ing country stars? They'll do it for you.”
After Trump played Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” at his 2020 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the late musician's widow Dana, ex-wife Jane, and daughters Adri and Annakim issued a cease and desist letter to team Trump. "Trump was in no way authorized to use this song to further a campaign that leaves too many Americans and common sense behind," the family wrote in their statement.
Petty previously threatened legal action against George W. Bush when he used another of the musician’s tracks on his 2000 campaign trail.
Panic! At The Disco
Panic! At The Disco frontman Brendon Urie told off Trump on Twitter after he walked on stage to one of their songs at a 2020 rally in Arizona.
"Dear Trump Campaign, F*** you. You're not invited. Stop playing my song. No thanks, Brendon Urie, Panic! At The Disco & company," Urie tweeted, second tweet with a link to voter registration. “Donald Trump represents nothing we stand for. The highest hope we have is voting this monster out in November.”
The Rolling Stones
Like that of Neil Young, the Rolling Stones’ battle against Trump has been a long one. Since 2016, the band have issued multiple notices to Trump to “cease all use” of their music in his campaigns and rallies. In June 2020, the band once again came up against Trump as he continues to use their “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at his events. The band’s representatives notified Trump that “the unauthorized use of their songs will constitute a breach of its licensing agreement,” the statement reads, per Rolling Stone. “If Donald Trump disregards the exclusion and persists then he would face a lawsuit for breaking the embargo and playing music that has not been licensed.”
When guitarist Brian May got wind that Trump was using Queen’s “We Are The Champions” as his personal theme song, May released a statement: “Permission to use the track was neither sought nor given.” Sony/ATV Music Publishing – the organization that controls Queen’s music rights – stated that they too had asked the campaign to stop using their songs. In part, the statement acknowledged previous notices by adding, “We are frustrated by the repeated unauthorized use of the song after a previous request to desist, which has obviously been ignored by Mr. Trump and his campaign.”
Adding that Queen do not want their music to be used in any political rally in any country, the statement expressly calls out Trump’s use by writing, the band don’t want “'We are the Champions' to be used as an endorsement of Mr. Trump and the political views of the Republican Party.”
Hours after the 2018 shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, Trump used Pharrell’s “Happy” at a rally. Lawyers for the singer sent a cease and desist notice to Trump’s team: “There was nothing 'happy' about the tragedy inflicted upon our country on Saturday and no permission was granted for your use of this song for this purpose,” and that Pharrell “has not and will not” grant permission to use his songs at any Trump events.
Guns N’ Roses
In 2018, Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose spoke out against Trump’s use of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” at one of his events. After tweeting the band had formally issued a request to stop using their music, he added, that “the Trump campaign is using loopholes in the various venues' blanket performance licenses, which were not intended for such craven political purposes, without the songwriters' consent.”
Again in 2020, Rose voiced his opposition to Trump’s use of the Guns N’ Roses cover of “Live And Let Die” at a meatpacking plant amid the COVID-19 pandemic in which Trump refused to wear a mask. He created shirts with “Live And Let Die With COVID 45” with all sales going to the Musicares charity.
Twister Sister are one of the few bands to actually grant permission to Trump to use their songs in 2016. However, once Trump announced his campaign plan and made his ideologies known, frontman Dee Snider revoked permission. “It's very upsetting to me, 'cause I strongly don't agree with his extremist positions,” Snider said at the time.