Earlier this week, Rock and Roll legend Tom Petty requested that Michele Bachmann stop playing "American Girl" at her campaign events.
The Guardian explains:
Petty's problem appears to be with Bachmann's politics. In 2008, the singer allowed Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton to use American Girl for her unsuccessful presidential bid. But he was much less sympathetic in 2000, when Republican candidate George W Bush was discovered to be playing I Won't Back Down at his rallies. "This use has not been approved," Petty's representatives told the future president. "Any use made by you or your campaign creates, either intentionally or unintentionally, the impression that you and your campaign have been endorsed by Tom Petty, which is not true." Bush , er, backed down.
Petty's request might not be enough to stop the conservative echo chamber from turning the song into Bachmann's theme anyway.
Petty's cease and desist does not mark the first time a conservative candidate has drawn criticism for trying to co-opt popular music for campaign branding purposes. Rolling Stone lays out some of the tortured history:
This isn't the first time that a politician used a Petty song against his will. In 2000 he had to tell George W. Bush to stop using "I Won't Back Down" at rallies. "It has recently come to our attention that your presidential campaign has been using the above-referenced song in connection with your presidential bid," Wixen Music Publishing president Randall Wizen wrote to the Bush campaign. "Please be advised that this use has not been approved . . . Any use made by you or your campaign creates, either intentionally or unintentionally, the impression that you and your campaign have been endorsed by Tom Petty, which is not true."
Petty is far from the only liberal rocker to get riled up a Republican co-opting his song or name. At a New Jersey campaign stop in 1984, Ronald Reagan famously heaped praise upon Bruce Springsteen. "America's future rests in a thousand dreams inside our hearts," Reagan said. "It rests in the message of hope in the songs of a man so many young Americans admire: New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen." Springsteen wasn't flattered by the name check.
In 1984, a robust conservative echo chamber wasn't there to co-opt Springsteen for the Reagan campaign.
Today, by contrast, conservative radio host Dana Loesch signaled she will engage in a campaign to link Bachmann to Petty's tune regardless of Petty's objection:
Licensing fees notwithstanding, Petty appears to have made clear that he does not endorse Bachmann's politics, or efforts to use his music to suggest that he does.
Listen as CNN's Dana Loesch announces her intention to spend the week branding Bachmann an "American girl" using Petty's song and calling him and Nancy Wilson of Heart "giant pricks":