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Video: Other People’s Music

There is something inherently dishonest and just plain rotten in a politician’s use of a song without the permission of the artist or band.

The Trump campaign seems to have an affinity for this. The guy has only run for office twice, and he has managed to antagonize a long list of bands and musicians. Here is a list.

The problem didn’t start with Trump. The above commentary, based on a very good New York Times article by Ben Sisario, explains why it is not easy to get politicians to stop. Perhaps the two most famous instances of song appropriation — Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”and Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” — had the extra dimension of inverting the writer’s meaning. Both are critical of the U.S. A good rock beat is more important than the lyrics, apparently.

Springsteen and Pete Seeger at Barack Obama’s first inaugural.

The video of kd lang’s version of the Leonard Cohen classic “Hallelujah” — which was used multiple times at the Republican National Convention despite Cohen’s estate request that it not be — is the background in the commentary above. The bottom line is that despite the fact that it doesn’t seem to make sense for a musician or band to be unable to simply tell a candidate not to use their song, the situation is nuanced and far from settled in law.

“Hallelujah” was used above without sound due to YouTube rules. The full song is below, with the audio magically restored. It is from the broadcast of the 2006 Canadian Songwriters’ Hall of Fame induction ceremony and is an early example of the song’s uncanny ability to elicit great performances. Cohen is there (though he was inducted 15 years earlier) and there is a physically awkward but nice moment between the two at the end.

Here are two lists of songs taken up by campaigns. Here are instances in which artists asked campaigns to stop using their work.

Off topic: This interview of kd lang by Dame Edna (Barry Humphries) is a scream. Ivana Trump, ironically, is sitting to the side looking rather helpless.


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Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.