In a letter to the Republican presidential hopeful, Tom Scholz complains that Huckabee is using his 1970s smash hit song "More Than a Feeling" without his permission. A former member of the band, Barry Goudreau, has appeared with Huckabee at campaign events, and they have played the song with Huckabee's band, Capitol Offense. [...]
"Boston has never endorsed a political candidate, and with all due respect, would not start by endorsing a candidate who is the polar opposite of most everything Boston stands for," wrote Scholz, adding that he is supporting Democratic Sen. Barack Obama. "By using my song, and my band's name Boston, you have taken something of mine and used it to promote ideas to which I am opposed. In other words, I think I've been ripped off, dude!" [Emphasis mine.]
Ha ha, that's awesome! But not quite as awesome as the Huckabee camp's response:
Fred Bramante, who was chairman of Huckabee's New Hampshire campaign, called the allegations ridiculous. He said he attended dozens of Huckabee rallies in New Hampshire and other states and never heard Huckabee play "More Than a Feeling," other than when Goudreau campaigned with him in Iowa in October.
"Governor Huckabee plays 'Sweet Home Alabama.' Does that mean Lynyrd Skynyrd is endorsing him? He plays 'Louie Louie.' Does that mean The Kingsmen are endorsing him? To me, it's ridiculous," he said. "Never once has he said, 'The band Boston endorses me.'"
Sarcastically awesome as Bramante's response is, it nevertheless raises a good point. After all, Ross Perot used Patsy Cline's "Crazy" as his theme song in 1992, without so much as a peep from her. And even if she was spinning in her grave - appropriate though the song was for the situation - does it matter? On one hand, there's the whole freedom-of-speech thing. But on the other side of that hand, candidates run the risk of pissing on everything the song - and its artist - stand for.
Quick! Can you spot these lyrics?
Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill a yellow man
Came back home to the refinery
Hiring man said, "Son, if it were up to me."
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said, 'Son, don't you understand now..."
Why, it's everyone's favorite Reagan-era jingo anthem, "Born in the U.S.A.," a Bruce Springsteen classic that has come to forever represent the GOP's complete inability to dig deeper than the shallow end of the chorus pool.
A scene from the movie Canadian Bacon lampoons this to magnificent effect. While driving to Canada with the intent of invasion, John Candy, Steven Wright and Bill Nunn sing pro-American songs. Eventually they get to "Born in the U.S.A.," only to realize that they don't know any of the words: "Born in the U.S.A., I was, Born in the U.S.A. Born in the U.S.A.!" [Awkward silence] "Uh, Born in the U.S.A., I was, Born in the U.S.A.!" [Awkward silence.] "Uh, Born in the U.S.A., I was, Born in the U.S.A.!"
Don't feel bad, guys. I hear Reagan was terrible at karaoke too.
But back to Boston; Scholz isn't the only one to to get his strings out of tune in 2008. John Mellencamp recently objected to John McCain's use of "Our Country," given that the rocker was a tireless supporter of John Edwards. And who can blame Mellencamp? "Our Country" is an instant classic that shouldn't be spoiled by a Republican warmonger taking its chorus at face value, or by the imagery of gas-guzzling pickup trucks...wait, what?
Using music for political advertising can be a risky bet, especially for Republicans. The ability for songs to get stuck in the public's head is a double-edged sword; sure, they might inexorably link the song to you, but they also might hate you forever for it.
I once read that a fan likened "More Than a Feeling" as "the sound of your big brother washing his car in the driveway on a weekend afternoon." If that pastoral image ever gets replaced in my mind by the image of Mike Huckabee jamming on bass, not even Chuck Norris could contain that fury.