music and political elections

Music and branding.  It’s taken for granted that these two go hand in hand whether it’s promoting a television show, an antacid or a political campaign.  The selling of a candidate to achieve public office is in many respects no different than marketing laundry detergent (insert joke here).  As it relates to the use of music, a well known and established song that everyone knows can help support the intended persona of a candidate.

While I thought this subject might be of interest at this particular time, I was surprised to find that the use of music in political campaigns goes back much farther than I would have imagined.  Songs of support or praise of a political figure go back to the beginning – George Washington.  Of course, Washington wasn’t running a campaign, however, songs of praise were composed such as “Follow Washington.”  It must have been available only as an mp1.

Just as popular songs are snapshots of the times they were composed and became popular, songs used in political campaigns are glimpses into the political and popular environments of their times.  Frequently, songs would be parodied with a new set of lyrics that would specifically promote the candidate.

Here are a few examples of actual campaign song themes:

  • Tippecanoe And Tyler Too” – 1840 campaign of William Henry Harrison – considered by some to be the pivotal point of music usage in campaigns
  • Battle Cry of Freedom” – Lincoln’s 1864 election song
  • Happy Days Are Here Again” – FDR in 1932
  • I’m Just Wild About Harry” – written in 1921, this was used for Truman in ’48
  • High Hopes” – JFK in 1960 (from the 1959 movie, “A Hole In The Head”)
  • “Hello Lyndon” (aka “Hello Dolly”) – Lyndon Johnson in 1964
  • California Here I Come” – Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in 1980
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water” – Walter Mondale’s ’72 campaign
  • Dole Man” (aka “Soul Man”)– Bob Dole in ’96, but publisher Almo/Irving threatened to charge $100K everytime it was used without their permission.
  • Take A Chance On Me” (ABBA) – John McCain / 2008

There are some very interesting ties between music usage and political campaigns with back stories well over 100 years old that help confirm the acknowledgement of branding value between music and a product – in these cases, a political figure.

As of this writing, we don’t yet know who the Republican candidate for president will be.  As interesting as who that will turn out to be, will be what theme they believe will connect with their campaign.

Randy Hart, Creative Services Director for Aircast Custom Music

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