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25 Times Classic Rock Stars Crashed the 2016 Presidential Election

Drew Angerer, Getty Images
Drew Angerer, Getty Images

The 2016 presidential campaign began with a rash of objections over the unauthorized use of rock songs, continued through some notable endorsements and insults, then concluded with a series of rousing performances. Here’s a timeline offering a deeper look into classic rock’s role in the Clinton / Trump presidential election.

June 25, 2015: Neil Young blasts eventual Republic nominee Donald Trump for unauthorized use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” during an announcement for his candidacy – adding that he supports Democratic contender Bernie Sanders. Trump responds by calling Young a “total hypocrite,” since they’d earlier had a friendly meeting about a business deal, then adds that he “didn’t love [the song] anyway.”

Sept. 10, 2015: R.E.M. announce that they do not feel fine about Trump playing their music at campaign rallies, either. In fact, after the band’s 1987 single “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” was featured at a Tea Party-sponsored event in Washington, D.C., frontman Michael Stipe said: “Go f— yourselves, the lot of you.”

Oct. 13, 2015: After receiving two cease-and-desist notices from Steven Tyler, Trump says that he will stop using Aerosmith‘s “Dream On” as part of his presidential campaign.

Oct. 26, 2015: Roger Waters makes his own endorsement of Sanders, adding that he’s worried eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton “might become the first woman president to drop a f—ing nuclear bomb on somebody.”

Dec. 10, 2015: Dee Snider initially allows Donald Trump to use Twisted Sister‘s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” during campaign events, but later says Trump’s political views forced him to reconsider.

Dec. 16, 2015: Ted Nugent endorses Trump as the person he wants to succeed Barack Obama as president of the United States, saying the billionaire is “the hellraiser America has needed for a very long time.”

Jan. 21, 2016: Bernie Sanders uses Simon & Garfunkel‘s rousing “America” in a new ad before the Iowa caucuses, while Nugent calls for Hillary Clinton (and President Obama) to be “tried for treason and hung” because of their alleged inaction during terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

Feb. 11, 2016: The Rolling Stones and Elton John are added to the growing list of artists who aren’t on board with Trump broadcasting their music at events during his campaign.

March 17, 2016: An eagle-eyed internet user wonders aloud about the resemblance between Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz and Stryper‘s Michael Sweet. “I’m not saying Ted Cruz might be the lead singer of Stryper,” Michael Boulerice writes. “I’m saying he’s DEFINITELY the lead singer of Stryper.”

April 1, 2016: Nugent endorses Hillary Clinton – on April Fool’s, of course. “Go Hillary! You go, girl,” he jokes, before making the sarcasm in his endorsement obvious.

May 31, 2016: House Speaker Paul Ryan takes a break from presidential politics to discuss the on-going AC/DC tour, calling it “a little weird” that Axl Rose has taken over for the ailing Brian Johnson.

June 9, 2016: Queen‘s Brian May responds to what he described as an “avalanche of complaints” from irate fans over the use of “We Are the Champions” at Trump’s rallies. “I can confirm that permission to use the track,” he says, “was neither sought nor given.”

July 14, 2016: Alice Cooper joins the political fray, launching an outsider campaign for public office complete with the creation of the so-called Wild Party, a hilarious 10-point manifesto and a new version of his song “Elected.”

July 19, 2016: The Republican National Convention features music by the Beatles (“Here Comes the Sun”), Queen (“We Are the Champions”), David Bowie (“Station to Station”), and the Turtles (“Happy Together”). Brian May and George Harrison‘s estate protest – though the latter winkingly adds: “If it had been ‘Beware of Darkness,’ then we MAY have approved it!,” referring to a deep cut from 1970’s All Things Must Pass. The Turtles’ Howard Kaylan also threatens legal action.

July 25, 2016: How would Ted Nugent respond if Clinton used one of his songs at a campaign event? We ask him, as the Democratic National Convention approaches. “We would know the end is near,” he says. So, any suggestions for Donald Trump’s next rally? Playing “‘Stranglehold,’ Nugent adds, “would clinch the presidency.”

July 25, 2016: Following a rash of complaints concerning unauthorized music at political events, a group of artists including Heart and John Mellencamp gather to perform “Don’t Use Our Song” on John Oliver’s HBO program Last Week Tonight.

July 26, 2016: Paul Simon calls for unity at the Democratic National Convention after a bruising primary battle between Clinton and primary challenger Bernie Sanders, performing the classic Simon & Garfunkel hit “Bridge Over Troubled Water” during a surprise appearance.

Aug. 31, 2016: Paul McCartney appears at a Clinton fundraiser, ending with an all-star version of “Hey Jude” featuring Jon Bon Jovi and Jimmy Buffett. The event, held at Buffett’s estate in Sag Harbor, reportedly costs $25,000 a ticket – prompting McCartney to joke that “this is the first time that I’ve paid to hear myself sing.”

Sept. 7, 2016: Stevie Nicks says she’d like to perform Fleetwood Mac‘s “Landslide” at Hillary Clinton’s inauguration, since she believes the election won’t be close. “It’s not uptempo,” Nicks says, “but it certainly would get the message across.”

Sept. 30, 2016: The first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is given the Auto-Tune treatment from current-events songsmiths the Gregory Brothers — with an assist from Blondie‘s Deborah Harry and Chris Stein.

Oct. 7, 2016: Sammy Hagar says the U.S. has “never had two less likable candidates,” before adding that he appreciates the way Trump “busts people’s balls and says things that are politically incorrect. Amen!”

Oct. 10, 2016: Roger Waters closes out the first weekend of Desert Trip by telling the audience that “it’s rare somebody like me gets a platform like this, so I’m going to use it.” He then employs video footage of Republican candidate Donald Trump during a performance of Pink Floyd‘s “Pigs.”

Nov. 1, 2016: Jackyl frontman Jesse James Dupree says that as far as he’s concerned, using one’s music as a political forum is “anti-rock.” As such, “it’s more or less to tell Bono and Bruce Springsteen, ‘Shut your f—ing mouths, you f—ing self-indulgent c—suckers.”

Nov. 7, 2016: Ted Nugent and Jon Bon Jovi make personal appearances on the campaign’s final weekend. Bon Jovi jams with Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine, while Nugent plays, stumps (and grabs his junk) for Donald Trump.

Nov. 8, 2016: Springsteen performs a three-song acoustic set at Hillary Clinton’s final rally of the 2016 presidential campaign. The set includes a couple of older favorites (“Thunder Road” and “Dancing in the Dark”) along with “Long Walk Home,” a track from 2007’s Magic.

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