Mike Huckabee playing the bass guitar

It’s election season, and already we’ve had two instances of those amusing quadrennial scuffles between Republican politicians and leftist musicians. Donald Trump repeatedly played Neil Young’s “Rocking’ in the Free World” at a campaign event, prompting a statement from Young’s camp that he was “not authorized” to use the song. Previously, the band Survivor sued Mike Huckabee over the use of “Eye of the Tiger” at a rally celebrating Rowan County, PA county clerk Kim Davis’ release from jail following a stint for contempt of court for refusing to marry same-sex couples. 

It’s a strange phenomenon, made more so by its reliability. Bumbling Republican candidate blasts song from campaign bus or whatever.  Artist sends irate cease and desist letter and copies the media. Politician quietly drops the song with vague apologies. Liberals pass it around as the latest evidence of the candidate’s brain damage, and get a good chuckle out of the whole thing. It’s extra fun if patriotic themes in the stolen songs turn out to be rather sarcastic, such as Young’s “Free World,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” or John Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses.” 

But beyond the personal political views of individual musicians and the people who hate them, there seems to be a more fundamental issue. For the life of me, I just don’t understand the intersection of the Republican Party and rock music at all.

Rock ’n roll is and always has been simple and filthy, the most sexualized music the world has ever produced.  78 percent of its lyrical lexicon is more or less devoted to indiscriminate humping. Which leads to the nonsequitur of the aforementioned Mike Huckabee, Captain Family Values himself. When he isn’t actively gay bashing, Huckabee plays bass guitar. There are myriad Youtube videos of him performing rock standards, including Def Leppard’s “Pour Sugar on Me”  with Leppard guitarist Phil Collen. That song contains lyrical gems such as “[y]ou got the peaches, I got the cream, sweet to taste, saccharine.” Perhaps Def Leppard assured Mike that all of the porn-star sex described was in the context of a sanctified first marriage between aman and awoman, and performed without contraception?

You might recall John Kasich’s last gubernatorial election campaign. FromThe Columbus Dispatch: “[w]ith the pounding guitar riff of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” in the background, a power trio of Republicans….surprised the crowd this morning at the Delaware County GOP Pancake Breakfast.” Kasich noted “[t]hat song, Thunderstruck, has never been played at a Republican rally, so crank it up and dance if you want to.” He played it again at his victory speech on election night. Again, a lyrical sampling: “we met some girls, some dancers who gave a good time, broke all the rules, played all the fools,yeah, yeah, they, they, they blew our minds.” You’ll remember that Kasich was the guy who tried to make Blockbuster Video pull the movie “Fargo” off its shelves because it offended his sense of decency.

Obviously, you don’t need to be a liberal to love rock music. The true Rock ’n Roll of the late 50’s and early 60’s was facially apolitical, although it challenged authority and sexual mores to a degree. Over the next several decades, it picked up an at times uncomfortable relationship with left wing politics but has more or less remained party music, from Tommy James to Van Halen to Katy Perry. You could certainly see an anti-government libertarian listening to ZZ Top on some weird lonely road just south of Fresno. But for a frothing-at-the-mouth Tea Party Republican?

The concepts don’t lend. It’s ridiculous; men in $700 suits sucking down scotch and performing this weird staggering they call dancing? Women in red dresses and too much makeup getting hammered on white wine and slobbered over by guys who look like Steve Forbes? When they scream for the music, are they reveling in a flat tax and the dissolution of the IRS? When they pump their fists to the beat, are they punching through the fake science of climate change?  While vomiting in their hotel toilet later that night do they view it as a metaphor for ending the food stamp program? What better background music than Led Zeppelin for a spirited round of dicking the little guy out of his workers’ comp?  

Were you cool once? That ended when you started lusting after war, and no amount of pathetic nostalgia will bring it back. God hasn’t tossed out a temporary hall pass from 1 Corinthians 13:11’s command to put away childish things so you can get down at the Cruz rally. From here on out you should look to Nashville. 

By the way, you should check out Mellencamp’s video for “Pink Houses.”  Once you are in on the joke, it’s one of the funniest things you’ll ever see.







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