- Many famous musicians and their families have spoken out against President Donald Trump using their music for his rallies and other events.
- Some artists, like Rihanna, Steven Tyler, and Pharrell Williams, reportedly had their teams issue cease-and-desist notices to the Trump campaign.
- Artists like Elton John, Adele, and Dee Snider have spoken about not wanting President Trump to use their music for his events.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
From his presidential campaign to his current presidency, President Donald Trump has received disapproval from many musicians who don’t want their music played at his events.
Many artists and their teams have even sent cease-and-desist notices, which are essentially warnings that demand a specific action be stopped or else legal action will be pursued.
From Neil Young to Rihanna, here are the artists – or their representatives – who have spoken out against President Trump using their music at his events and rallies.
Tom Petty’s family issued a complaint to the Trump campaign after one of the musician’s songs was played at a 2020 rally.
In a statement released on Twitter, Tom Petty’s daughters Adria and Annakim, widow Dana, and ex-wife Jane Petty wrote that they’d “issued an official cease and desist notice to the Trump campaign.”
“Trump was in no way authorised to use this song to further a campaign that leaves too many Americans and common sense behind,” the family wrote in their statement.
This isn’t the first time Tom Petty’s music has been used in political campaigns without permission – in 2000, George W. Bush used one of the musician’s songs on his campaign trail, according to Time.
Tom Petty threatened legal action against Bush, saying the use of his song falsely implied that he was endorsing Bush.
Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco told Trump to stop playing one of his songs.
On Twitter, the Panic! At The Disco frontman told Trump’s campaign to stop playing his song “High Hopes,” which played as the president walked on stage at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, per USA Today.
“Dear Trump Campaign, F— you. You’re not invited. Stop playing my song. No thanks, Brendon Urie, Panic! At The Disco & company,” the musician wrote in a tweet.
Neil Young was one of the first musicians to tell Trump to stop playing his music.
In 2015, Neil Young began his battle with Trump over the usage of his hit song, “Rockin’ in the Free World.”
Trump was using his song during his official presidential campaign announcement. Rolling Stone obtained the statement from Young’s representatives, which stated:
“Donald Trump was not authorised to use ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ in his presidential candidacy announcement. Neil Young, a Canadian citizen, is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for President of the United States of America.”
But despite disapproval from the artist, a representative for Trump’s campaign told Rolling Stone that the song was being used legally.
Per The Hollywood Reporter, in August, Young filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against the Trump campaign for playing his songs, including “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Devil’s Footpath,” at campaign rallies.
Rihanna’s team sent a cease-and-desist notice to the White House.
In 2018, Rhianna discovered her music was being played during one of his rallies via Twitter.
In response to a tweet from The Washington Post reporter Philip Rucker about her music being used, she tweeted, “Not for much longer…me nor my people would ever be at or around one of those tragic rallies, so thanks for the heads up philip!”
Shortly after Rihanna sent out a tweet in regards to her disapproval, her team sent out a cease-and-desist notice,Rolling Stone reported.
Elton John said he doesn’t want his music used in American election campaigns.
While running for president, Trump used Elton John’s songs “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer” as warm-up music to his campaign rallies.
But the iconic singer has made it clear his views are different from Trump’s and he doesn’t want his music involved in American politics.
“I don’t really want my music to be involved in anything to do with an American election campaign. 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,” John told The Guardian. “Why not ask Ted Nugent? Or one of those f—— country stars? They will do it for you.”
R.E.M. said they sent a cease-and-desist notice to Donald Trump.
In 2016, when the band’s frontrunner Michael Stipe found out that Trump was frequently using R.E.M.’s hit song, “It’s the End of the World,” at his campaign rallies, the entire band sent him a cease-and-desist notice.
According to Vulture, they later confirmed the legal matter in a Facebook statement and also told the media and American voters to focus on the “bigger picture.”
Adele spoke out against Trump once he started using her music at rallies.
In 2016, upon finding out that Trump was playing her music at his events, Adele’s spokesperson announced that Adele never gave then-candidate Trump permission to use her music.
According to Vulture, the singer went on to endorse Hillary Clinton during a concert on the US leg of her tour.
“Don’t vote for him,” she 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.”
The Rolling Stones have sent out multiple statements against Trump’s use of their music.
Since 2016, the band has sent out multiple statements calling for Trump to “cease all use” of their music, Vulture reported.
But Trump has continued to use the band’s hit song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” anyway, according to The Guardian.
In June 2020, representatives for the group – working with BMI, a performing-rights organisation – released a statement saying that if Trump continued to use the band’s music in his campaigning efforts, he may be sued.
“The BMI have notified the Trump campaign on behalf of the Stones that the unauthorised use of their songs will constitute a breach of its licensing agreement,” the statement read, 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.”
Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses expressed he didn’t want Trump playing the band’s music at rallies.
In 2018, the Guns N’ Roses singer found out that President Trump was playing the band’s hit song “Sweet Child O’ Mine” during an event.
He said his band has formally requested that Trump not use their music at his events, and tweeted 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.”
Pharrell Williams had his lawyer send Trump a cease-and-desist notice.
After finding out that Trump played his song “Happy” at a rally just a few hours after the October 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Williams had his lawyer send the White House a cease-and-desist notice pertaining to the hit song and any of his other tunes, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“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,” the letter stated.
It also said Williams “has not and will not” give Trump permission to use his music.
Queen’s Brian May said that Trump never asked permission to use “We Are The Champions.”
In 2016, Brian May released an unofficial statement saying “permission to use the track was neither sought nor given,” concerning the Queen hit “We Are The Champions” being used as Trump’s “theme song.”
May also added, “It has always been against our policy to allow Queen music to be used as a political campaigning tool.”
Queen asked Trump to stop using “We Are The Champions.”
The Queen classic “We are the Champions” played during the 2016 RNC as then-Republican nominee Donald Trump introduced his wife, Melania.
Queen then issued a tweet, saying that the use was against their wishes.
Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which controls Queen’s copyrights, released a statement regarding the use too, stating that they had previously asked Trump to stop playing the song.
“Sony/ATV Music Publishing has never been asked by Mr. Trump, the Trump campaign or the Trump Organisation for permission to use ‘We are the Champions’ by Queen,” the statement read, according to Forbes. “On behalf of the band, we are frustrated by the repeated unauthorised use of the song after a previous request to desist, which has obviously been ignored by Mr. Trump and his campaign.”
“Queen does not want its music associated with any mainstream or political debate in any country,” the statement continued. “Nor does Queen want ‘We are the Champions’ to be used as an endorsement of Mr. Trump and the political views of the Republican Party. We trust, hope and expect that Mr. Trump and his campaign will respect these wishes moving forward.”
But if Trump’s campaign paid to licence the song, Queen has no control over the usage, according to Forbes.
Earth, Wind & Fire said their song “September” was played at the 2016 Republican Convention against their wishes.
Another song played at the 2016 Republican Convention was the iconic song “September” by Earth Wind & Fire.
After the song was played, the band’s Twitter account quote-tweeted Queen’s tweet about “We Are the Champions.”
“Another unauthorised use (September) at the Republican Convention, against our wishes – Earth, Wind & Fire,” the tweet read.
Eddie Levert of The O’Jays took issue with Trump playing one of their songs.
The O’Jays’ song “For The Love Of Money” was used for Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice.”
But the band’s cofounder Eddie Levert told Billboard that when the Trump campaign used the song “Love Train” at his rallies, he took issue with it – and he said the Trump campaign wasn’t too happy about his speaking up.
“They got on me about it, said I got enough money from him so now I can kick dirt in his face,” Levert told Billboard. “… I wish him the best, but I don’t think he’s the man to run our country. So when he started using ‘Love Train,’ I called him up and told them, ‘Listen, man, I don’t believe in what you’re doing. I’m not with you. I don’t want you to use my voice. I’m not condoning what you’re doing.”
Paul Rodgers of the band Free got his lawyer involved.
When Trump’s campaign used the song “All Right Now” by the band Free during the 2016 RNC, member and co-writer Paul Rodgers took to Twitter to express his issue with it.
“Permission to use ‘All Right Now’ was never sought for or granted by me. My lawyer is dealing with this matter. – Paul,” the tweet read.
Members of George Harrison’s estate said the use of “Here Comes The Sun” went against their wishes.
At the same 2016 RNC, The Beatles classic “Here Comes The Sun,” written by George Harrison, was played. Members of his estate issued a tweet saying that the use of the song was against their wishes.
But they also were sure to get a dig in via Twitter. “If it had been Beware of Darkness, then we MAY have approved it! #TrumpYourself,” the tweet read.
Luciano Pavarotti’s family said his values don’t match Trump’s.
His widow, Nicoletta Mantovani Pavarotti, and three daughters even told 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.”
In 2017, Trump called Pavarotti a “great friend,” which many took to mean Trump thought he was still alive, despite the fact that he’s been dead since 2007.
Prince’s half-brother requested that the Trump campaign stop using “Purple Rain.”
Trump was apparently using one of the late singer Prince’s most iconic songs, “Purple Rain,” at his pre-Midterm rallies in 2018.
Omarr Baker, Prince’s half-brother, released a statement on behalf of the family asking Trump to stop playing the song.
“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.
It was unclear at the time if a formal cease-and-desist had been filed, according to Entertainment Weekly.
Steven Tyler sent a cease-and-desist notice concerning Aerosmith’s music.
Since 2015, Steven Tyler has been requesting that Trump not use Aerosmith’s music during his campaign. But in August 2018, Trump played the Aerosmith hit “Livin’ on the Edge” at a rally.
Tyler’s team then sent out a formal cease-and-desist notice.
“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 letter reads, according to CBS News.
He later clarified in a tweet that his decision was not about Democrats versus Republicans, he just does not want his music being used without permission for political purposes.
Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider ended his musical relationship with Trump over conflicting political views.
Dee Snider originally granted Trump permission to use “We’re Not Gonna Take It” during his campaign trail, saying, “The song ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ is a song about rebellion, and there’s nothing more rebellious than what Donald Trump is doing right now.”
But Snider had a change of heart once he heard more about Trump’s ideologies and political positions.
“It’s very upsetting to me, ’cause I strongly don’t agree with his extremist positions,” Snider said in an interview with Loudwire.
“I have to call Donald. I have to speak to him, as a friend. He was respectful enough to call me and say, ‘How do you feel about me using this?’ And I’ve gotta be – as a friend – respectful enough to call him and say, ‘Listen, man, this has gotten wildly out of control, and I really have a problem with it.’ It’s really gotten ugly.”
In a 2020 interview with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Snider said Trump stopped using his music the same night that he asked him to do so.
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