Campaign Theme Songs: Where Political Candidates and Popular Music Collide.
(ThyBlackMan.com) If there’s one thing that has become a staple of presidential campaigns over the decades, it’s the campaign theme song. These have become essential for politicians in recent years, but actually the history of the campaign song goes back a lot further, and songs have been playing a role in electing the leader of the free world for over 200 years.
Here’s a guide to this well-established tradition now that the presidential race for 2016 is in full swing.
Why Are Songs So Important for Campaigns?
Songs are part of popular culture, and candidates hope to connect with the public through them, just as they connect through TV shows. They don’t always work, but songs are perhaps the most important way to connect because they can be chosen to reflect the presidential campaign’s message both through the music and the lyrics.
The use of songs has changed over the years, showing the shift that has taken place in politics. Now, a president’s personality is more important, and they almost become celebrities in their own rights. Popular songs help them to improve their image and reach out to the voters.
Songs have been used to promote the platform of a party and a candidate for generations. They became really popular in the 20th century, but the traditional actually started before that. They are more important now in the run-up to the Presidential Primaries for 2016 than they’ve ever been.
Here’s a history of some of the most memorable campaign songs over the decades.
Early Use of Campaign Songs
The use of songs goes right back to when the first president was elected. George Washington didn’t have a theme song exactly, but songs were very much part of the process because popular songs from the time were taken and the lyrics were changed.
“God Save Great Washington” was one of them. It took the English national anthem, “God Save the King,” but changed the words, and it was used in 1786, years before Washington was inaugurated.
John Quincy Adams also used a song in 1828, but he tried to use it to provoke fear of his rival. He used a song called “Little Know Ye Who’s Coming” to warn voters, but the tactic was not successful.
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln did something similar to Washington by taking an old Irish song and changing the lyrics.
Roosevelt’s Uses Existing Song for the First Time
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first presidential candidate to take an existing song and use it for his campaign. In the 1932 Democratic Convention, he used the song “Happy Days Are Here Again,” and it was so successful that it became the theme song for the Democrats for years to come.
Irving Berlin Creates a Song for Dwight Eisenhower
Irving Berlin, he of “White Christmas” fame, created a song for Eisenhower in 1952. It was called “I Like Ike,” and it first appeared on Broadway. It helped to create a very slick campaign for Eisenhower to help him win the election.
JFK Changes Things Up
John F. Kennedy took the campaign theme song to new levels in the 1960 primary. He used to to focus on entertainment and creating a media persona by taking “High Hopes” by Frank Sinatra and changing the lyrics. His team played it on loud speakers whenever Kennedy visited a town, and it gave energy to his campaign.
Clinton Reunites Fleetwood Mac
Bill Clinton took an older song in 1992 when he chose “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac. This dated back to 1977, and he was advised against using it at first. After he had won the election, he managed to get the band to reunite at the inaugural ball in 1993 to play it.
George W. Bush Gets in Trouble
George W. Bush used “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty in 2000, but the musician was less than happy about the decision. Bush was sent a cease and desist letter from the publisher, who complained that using the song suggested that musician was endorsing Bush.
Bush also received requests from Sting and John Mellencamp to stop using their songs, although they did not threaten legal action.
Obama Gets Support from Entertainers
Obama has always used popular culture, appearing on TV shows and online platforms to promote his agenda. He used a number of songs in his presidential campaign, perhaps most famously “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” by Stevie Wonder. He also used “Better Way” by Ben Harper, a very hip song for a presidential candidate, while John McCain stuck to “Take a Chance on Me” by ABBA.
The Campaign Theme Song Is Here to Stay
A tradition dating back decades, the campaign theme song has become an essential part of the campaign trail for politicians. Look out for the songs that politicians choose for the 2016 campaign, and decide whether they help you come to a decision about who you vote for this time.
Staff Writer; Craig Johnson