SONGSTUFF by Cary Ginell: Songs for the 2012 Presidential Campaign

As the 2012 presidential campaign drones on, I thought it might be appropriate to fully explore a subject that Randy Hart broached in a recent blog titled “Music and Political Elections.” As of now, most of America has yet to hear songs associated with the major candidates in the current presidential race. This is mainly due to the fact that the campaign is still in its regional phase, as the Republicans plow, state-by-state, through the primary season, while President Obama remains in a holding mode, awaiting the outcome so he can settle on a definitive adversary and customize his strategy accordingly.

It’s not that there aren’t any quality songs out there. A brief surfing tour through YouTube resulted in the discovery of a number of well-produced videos that exhibit original melodies, heartfelt lyrics, emotion, wit, patriotism, and ingenuity. Here are a few that I’ve seen so far:



“Presidential Swagger” by Illy Ill

Written and performed by Earl Campbell (aka “Illy Ill”), this song combines hip-hop with a catchy vocal chorus in presenting an effective, positive impression of Barack Obama’s achievements without resorting to profanity or insulting the opposition.


“Let’s Do It Again” by Limitless

Limitless is a quintet of Orlando teenagers who, although too young to vote, still have an important message to send to Americans. The enterprising youngsters are also marketing a T-shirt emblazoned with their slogan.

Despite the above, the Obama re-election campaign has yet to settle on a specific song with which to brand his candidacy, preferring to issue a “playlist” of 29 songs that will be played on the campaign trail. They range from Stax oldies like “Green Onions” (Booker T. & the MGs) and “Let’s Stay Together” (Al Green) to songs by contemporary artists, including Jennifer Hudson, Wilco, Darius Rucker, and Sugarland.



The Republican front runner has gotten the support of superstar Kid Rock, who has performed his recent hit “Born Free” at Romney rallies. Although the song has no overtly political message, it delivers a similar embracing of freedom and reverence for the American landscape that “This Land Is Your Land” exhibited for Woody Guthrie several generations ago.



East Texas singer Krista Branch’s 2010 anthem “I Am America,” which was written by her husband Michael, was used during the brief campaign of Herman Cain but still remains popular. Since then, another of Branch’s songs, “Remember Who We Are,” has become the official campaign theme for Rick Santorum. Like both of the other songs mentioned above, this song was not written specifically with Santorum in mind, but whose message has been endorsed and approved by the candidate.



Aspiring Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich has so far had bad luck in securing a campaign theme song. He used Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” until he was sued by Rude Music, Inc., which owns the Survivor master and has refused giving permission for Gingrich to use it. A subsequent attempt to use “How You Like Me Now?” by the British band the Heavy also resulted in objection by its creators, who instigated a cease-and-desist order against the Gingrich campaign. No other song has since surfaced.



The only song used by the Ron Paul campaign thus far has been “The Imperial March,” Darth Vader’s theme from the original Star Wars motion picture. No word of any objections by composer John Williams has been found for this usage.

In my next blog, I will go back in history to identify famous (and infamous) campaign songs dating back to the days of George Washington

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