Hillary Clinton-Katy Perry in 2016? A Short History of Pop Songs in Presidential Campaigns

Katy Perry to Fleetwood Mac: A History of Pop Songs in Presidential Campaigns
Katy Perry (left) and Hillary Clinton
Courtesy Katy Perry

07/06/2014 09:30AM

"Hey, Hillz! Nice meeting you. Lemme write you a song when you run for president!"

That's basically how Katy Perry followed up her meeting with Hillary Clinton at a book signing last Friday. And Clinton seemed down with it, oddly enough.



But before you say that a Hillary Clinton-Katy Perry team-up seems a little out of left field, know that the Ready for Hillary Super PAC already used "Roar" in a promotional video earlier this year.





"Eye of the tiger?" "I am the champion?" It actually works, and it's not even the oddest partnership between a presidential candidate and a pop singer. In fact, there's a long history of presidential candidates bolstering their appeal with whatever song happened to be popular at the time. Today, we don't think twice about Franklin Delano Roosevelt having used an American standard such as "Happy Days Are Here Again" for his successful 1932 presidential run, but back then, the song was fairly new, having been recorded only in 1929. That's about how long "Roar" will be in the public consciousness, should Clinton run with it in 2016.

Here's a look at the songs recent candidates hoped would carry them to the White House.

Bill Clinton: Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop"



This upbeat track from Rumours closed out the 1992 Democratic National Convention by conveying everything a would-be president should want to say: No matter what happened in the past, there's a beautiful new future awaiting you ... and also "Hey, baby boomers! I am one of you!" The song has been associated with Clinton ever since, and it's much better remembered than the song Clinton used in 1996, "This Is the Moment."

Ross Perot: Patsy Cline's "Crazy"



You have to hand it to a guy who has a sense of humor. This heartbreak anthem may not seem like a song any candidate would use to rally his supporters, but then again, no other candidate has run a campaign like Perot did. "There are millions of crazy people in this country," Perot is quoted saying in an L.A. Times article about the song's unveiling. "And I'll say tomorrow I bet it'll be a crazy day at the polls." Whatever you say, Mr. Perot.

Bob Dole: A Reworking of "Soul Man" Titled, of Course, "Dole Man"



You're seeing the original, non-Bob Dole-referencing version here. No trace of the Bob Dole version seems to exist online, unfortunately. The version Dole used in 1996 had lyrics re-written by Sam Moore, the surviving half of the duo that made it a hit back in 1967, and at least one version included a dig at Bill Clinton: "And he ain't from Hope, and he don't have no girlfriends, no!"

George W. Bush: Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down"



On paper, it's a great fit – the county-twinged hit conveys a resolute toughness that voters might want in a presidential candidate. Petty, however, issued the campaign a cease and desist letter on grounds that its use made it seem like he had endorsed Bush's bid. He hadn't. Bush eventually selected an even country-er song, Billy Ray Cyrus's "We the People," and won the election, while Petty played "I Won't Back Down" for Al Gore – but, ironically, at Gore's concession party. (Tipper played drums.)

Bush skewed country again in 2004 by choosing Brooks and Dunn's "Only in America." When Barack Obama used the same song in 2008, Kix Brooks told Rolling Stone it was "very flattering to know our song crossed parties and potentially inspires all Americans."

Al Gore: Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet"



In 2000, Gore tried to seem a little rock-'n'-roll with this 1974 hit, and while the title gets the right message across, you have to wonder about those opening lyrics, "I met a devil woman / She took my heart away." Gore's campaign also used Orleans' "Still the One" and Fatboy Slim's "Praise You," the latter of which ABC News described as a "technological pile of samples, synths and voice loops, perhaps appropriate for a man who once said he invented the Internet."

John Kerry: Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender"



It's a rollicking rock anthem that would be great for any campaign. It would just work a lot better if Kerry had actually won ... because, you know, giving a concession speech might be considered by some a form of surrender. For what it's worth, Kerry ended up taking New Jersey.

John McCain: "Take Us Out" from Rudy



Officially, McCain's 2008 campaign song was this instrumental track from Jerry Goldsmith's score to the film Rudy, but the real story lies in the two other tunes the campaign used. Leading up to the Republican National Primary, he made the odd choice of using ABBA's "Take a Chance on Me." (McCain is a huge ABBA fan, it turns out.) Then, at the convention, he switched out Swedish disco pop for Heart's "Barracuda," in tribute to running mate Sarah Palin's high school basketball nickname, "Sarah Barracuda." Heart repeatedly asked the campaign to stop.

McCain ran into similar issues that same year when John Mellencamp also asked him to stop using his songs "Our Country" and "Pink Houses."

Barack Obama: will.i.am's "Yes We Can"



This campaign song is the outlier for a few reasons. For one, it was created specifically in support of Obama. For another, it's not exactly a song, in the strictest sense of the word. And thirdly, it features not one celeb performer but a host of them – among them, Scarlett Johansson, Common, John Legend, Nicole Scherzinger and Nick Cannon. Nonetheless, an election victory and 25 million YouTube views later, it set the bar high for future campaign anthems.

In 2012, Obama used Bruce Springsteen's then-brand-new track "We Take Care of Our Own," which is as fitting a song as any for a guy pushing the Affordable Care Act.

Mike Huckabee: Boston's "More Than a Feeling"



You'd think by now Republican presidential hopefuls would take a little more care in picking campaign songs. But no, when Huckabee used this song in his bid in 2008, Boston frontman Tom Scholz objected – and pointed out that the former Boston member endorsing Huckabee, Barry Goudreau, had left the band in 1979. Huckabee ceased using the song.

Rudy Giuliani: The Clash's "Rudie Can't Fail"



John McCain wasn't the only one to use the theme to Rudy in his campaign. Giuliani did too in his 2008 bid, but he also used The Clash's 1979 track "Rudie Can't Fail." It's a curious choice, given The Clash's general anti-establishment vibe and the lyrics "How you get a rude and a reckless? / Don't you be so crude and a feckless / You been drinking brew for breakfast." He might as well have just used "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," because that also has his name in it.

Mitt Romney: Kid Rock's "Born Free"



Yes, Mitt Romney and Kid Rock. Hillary Clinton and Katy Perry don't seem like such a mismatch now, do they? Granted, "Born Free" is a lot more appropriate for a Republican presidential campaign than, say, "Bawitdaba," and the song does tug on those heartland heartstrings. Romney also used Rodney Atkins's 2009 banjoriffic ode to the nation, "It's America," to similar effect.

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