Neil Young Upset by Donald Trump’s Use of ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’
You can tell that the 2016 presidential election season has begun because we’ve received the first complaint by a rocker for a candidate using a song without permission. Neil Young’s management has released a statement that both criticized Donald Trump’s use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” and gave his own endorsement for president.
6/18 Update: Trump has agreed to stop using the song.
"Donald Trump was not authorized to use ‘Rockin' in the Free World’ in his presidential candidacy announcement,” it reads. “Neil Young, a Canadian citizen, is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for President of the United States of America."
This morning (June 16), Trump announced that he was seeking the Republican nomination for president at New York’s Trump Tower. As you can see in the above video, Young’s song then briefly played over the sound system before Trump gestured for it to be turned off.
Released on 1989’s Freedom, “Rockin’ in the Free World” is an odd choice for Trump to have chosen, not just because Young is famously liberal. The lyrics are a critique of American society after a decade of Republican administrations, even referencing then-president George H.W. Bush’s “thousand points of light” quote. As with “My My Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) on Rust Never Sleeps, “Rockin’” bookends Freedom, opening the album with a solo acoustic version and closing with an electric take.
Unauthorized use of music by politicians seems to have become a part of every election cycle. In 2008, Jackson Browne sued John McCain for using “Running on Empty.” More recently, John Mellencamp took issue with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is considering running for president, for using “Small Town” at rallies.