The Rolling Stones are the latest musical artists to say the Republican presidential frontrunner never asked their permission to blast their songs at campaign rallies.
Whatever you may think of his authoritarian excesses, Donald Trump has arguably the best, most fantastic, and most eclectic campaign playlist of the 2016 election. Trump’s rule for campaign events is that, for the 50 minutes before he goes on-stage, the only music the crowd will hear over the loudspeakers is from a list he compiled himself.
“Remember, the more inappropriate for a political event, the better,” a Trump volunteer in charge of a rally’s music told The New Yorker, regarding the Trump-approved songs.
The Trump-rally playlist includes three Rolling Stones hits: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Sympathy for the Devil” (the third-best “conservative rock song,” according to National Review, the flagship publication of the right that despises Trump), and “Brown Sugar.”
If we’re going to talk about “inappropriate” content for a political event, “Brown Sugar” has got to be ranked near the very top of that list. It is a hugely popular rock song about raping black slaves.
The Trump campaign (ever-controversial, its candidate frequently maligned and slammed as racist, fascist, war-crime-prone, and what have you) has been called out by several artists, and has been told to knock it off by others. Now, the Rolling Stones have a terse statement.
“The band was not asked for permission to use the songs,” Stones spokeswoman Fran Curtis told The Daily Beast.
This month, Adele’s representative issued a similarly vague statement distancing the singer/songwriter from Trump, saying that “Adele has not given permission for her music to be used for any political campaigning.” This was after the campaign had started playing Adele’s hit “Rolling in the Deep” at events to pump up the crowd.
No word yet on whether the Stones or their reps will attempt to bar Team Trump from playing their music, à la cease and desist. In a 2005 election, Angela Merkel’s team started playing The Rolling Stones song “Angie” at rallies in Germany. The British rock band’s agents shot back, stating that nobody had sought their permission and that they “probably would have said 'no’ if they had.”
“Can you imagine President Trump? The worst nightmare,” Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards told Billboard late last year. “But we can’t say that. Because it could happen. This is one of the wonders of this country. Who would’ve thought Ronald Reagan could be president?”
Mick Jagger, for his part, is no fan of the Republican Party, and went out of his way to jab Mitt Romney in an original blues song he performed on Saturday Night Live in 2012.
Trump’s playlist has also included music from the cast recordings of the musicals Cats and The Phantom of the Opera, and songs by Twisted Sister, The Beatles, and Elton John. Aerosmith and Neil Young (a longtime Bernie Sanders supporter) are among those who have asked Trump 2016 to cut it out. This month, Elton John also weighed in.
“Elton’s music has not been requested for use in any official capacity by Donald Trump,” a publicist said. “Any use of his music should not be seen as an endorsement of Donald Trump by Elton.” John clarified that it wasn’t anything personal.
“I don’t really want my music to be involved in anything to do with an American election campaign,” he told The Guardian. “I’m British. I’ve met Donald Trump, he was very nice to me, it’s nothing personal, his political views are his own, mine are very different, I’m not a Republican in a million years. Why not ask Ted fucking Nugent? Or one of those fucking country stars? They’ll do it for you.”
The members of alt-rock band R.E.M. were less forgiving.
“Go fuck yourselves, the lot of you—you sad, attention-grabbing, power-hungry little men,” lead singer Michael Stipe told The Daily Beast in September, after their 1987 song “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” was used at a “Stop the Iran Deal” rally where Trump and Ted Cruz spoke. “Do not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign.”