Rockin’ the Vote (2012): Round 1

Posted November 3, 2012 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

Round 1: Rock, pop and r&b stars weigh in on their 2012 choice for POTUS

There’s a familiar proverbial chant that floats around music circles stating music and politics don’t mix. Often times, it doesn’t; usually some backlash in record sales will develop and that cloud of controversy starts to loom over their career. But sometimes, if the music’s good and the message is universally striking (such as the folk messages of Bob Dylan, the spirited protest of Sex Pistols or the sermonic dispensations of Stevie Wonder), then consider it a job well done. In 2012, the waters are murkier and the thin lines being drawn by political pundits, talk radio hosts and the news cycle in the Twitter feeds have never been this broody or bloody. But that hasn’t stopped some of today’s pop and rock superstars from turning the volume up on the rhetoric. Surely these outspoken music champions aren’t going to give up their day-and-night job (why the hell should they?), but whether they are Democrats, Republicans or whatever the new third party is called – they aren’t holding back on showing their political colors (red, blue, or whatever the third party color is). This fall, as America decides whether Barack Obama should lead the course for the next four years or if Romney should change course, the musicians are also weighing in on the political debate.
If the Electoral College was made up of rock and pop superstars, this would unofficially be 2012’s political verdict.
Foo Fighters
Dave Grohl goes political? Get outta here. Well, believe it. For the last year, the Foo Fighter has raised the bar on the volume of his social beliefs and – all things considered – politics. And with that familiar stench of teen spirit still lingering (see their hilarious protest on the Westboro Baptist folk), the Foos are making it loud and clear that they will not be Romney’s monkey wrench. The rock band wowed the DNC stage this year and made a special declaration when they performed an acoustic rendering of “My Hero.”
Kelly Clarkson
(Most Likely to Vote Obama)

Once upon a time, the Season One ‘Idol’ champion willingly showed her support for the ideals and resilience of Republican underdog Ron Paul via Twitter. But she cleared the air once and for all with Rolling Stone back in March. “All I did was tweet what I thought, and people went crazy! All of a sudden, people were like, “You hate gay people” – what? I didn’t even endorse him! All I said was that I like him. I voted for Barack, so it’s not like I’m a hardcore Republican.”

Although they have put the brakes on their recording career, the Athens, Ga. alt-rock band R.E.M is still quite protective of their work. “Losing My Religion” may be perfect for American Idol and Glee die-hards, but lead singer Michael Stipe didn’t think it was fit for FOX News to use their 1991 hit during their coverage of the Democratic National Convention. “We have little or no respect for their puff adder brand of reportage,” the singer claimed in a press statement. “Our music doesn’t belong there.” Of course, in their snarky kind of way, FOX News responded by saying they were “in full accordance with its license agreements with all appropriate parties, nevertheless, we’re always flattered to have this much attention for a song selection and we hope R.E.M. was able to satisfy their publicity fix.” Recently, Stipe smiled with glee when asked how he would response if Obama asked for one of his songs on the campaign trail. “I would be so flattered,” Stipe told the New York Post. He even had a song of choice for Obama: “Every Day Is Yours to Win.”
Twisted Sister
(Most Likely to Vote Obama)
Paul Ryan decided to use Twister Sister’s 1984 glam-rock jam “We’re Not Gonna Take It” for their campaign trail. Apparently, the band’s frontman, Dee Snider, had had enough. “There is almost nothing on which I agree with Paul Ryan, except perhaps the use of P90X,” he said in a press statement. Could this be an endorsement for Obama? Eh, most likely.
Mary J. Blige
The First Lady of Hip-Hop sung to the crowd of thousands packed at the DNC this year, but she also sings Obama’s praises, even giving him an “A” grade for his first four years. “I think he did a great job,” Blige told CNN. “I wish people would just chill out and let the man do his job…let him finish his work.”
Roger Waters
(Most Likely to Vote Obama)

The Pink Floyd frontman didn’t rush to put another brick in the wall when he spoke to Rolling Stone in December 2011 about the political climate. “The president’s foreign policy goes against everything that I believe. But the alternative to re-electing Obama would be a disaster – the Republican candidates are the lackeys of the grossest machine.” It’s most likely Waters won’t crumble when he cast his vote for Obama.


Kid Rock

“Rock N Roll Jesus” would’ve been perfect for a Romney/Ryan processional march. It’ll probably be the most important piece of song-and-dance to keep conservatives rallied up over Dan Cathy. And that could very well happen for the Republican Duo as the former bad-ass rapper-turned-Bob Seger rocker threw his support towards his local hero (yes, this may very well be an endorsement for the home team, since Romney’s roots are in Michigan). Kid Rock should know firsthand how bad his hometown of Detroit has been ravaged by the backbreaking economy, but he should also be reminded of how Obama’s bailout of the auto industry spared Detroit from turning into a pillar of salt. He should also know that Mr. Romney has suspended most, if not all, his campaign dollars in his home state.

Ricky Martin
As an out and proud father, Latin pop singer Ricky Martin celebrated Obama for his recent shift on gay marriage. “We admire his courage, like the courage he showed…in affirming his belief in marriage equality.” Days after Obama made his announcement supporting gay marriage; Martin held a fundraiser in New York with a price tag of $5,000. The singer, who is still enjoying his latest trek into Broadway while performing in Evita, was once vocal over his support over George W. Bush, even performing at his 2001 inauguration. Those views tanked as the Iraq War progressed.
Ted Nugent

The proud gun-toting NRA spokesman still has “cat scratch fever” when it comes to Obama. “I am saddened to admit that Obama represents everything bad about humanity and Romney pretty much all that is good,” he said in April. Nugent went on the record to say “if Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”

Lynyrd Skynyrd
(Most Likely to Vote Romney)

The Southern rock band with a loud muse for the Confederate flag and a 10-minute “Free Bird” finale kicked off the pep rally for this year’s RNC festivities. “I hope whoever wins come November, whether it be Romney or [Obama], they put this country back on track,” Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman Johnny Van Zant told Politico. “I did not vote for President Obama…now he’s the president of the United States. Whatever happens we have to support him. We have to be good Americans and stand by our president.” Van Zant admitted to once being a former Democrat, but felt the need to change his political affiliation after being inspired by Ronald Reagan’s legacy. He also confessed that all of the band members aren’t registered Republicans. “We’re always back and forth,” he said. “Surprisingly, we’re not that far apart.”

The band is experiencing their own shitstorm of political controversy after questions arose after a CNN report addressed their heavy use of the Confederate flag in their live shows. Gary Rossington, the last surviving original member of the band, told the cable news network that “people like the KKK and skinheads kinda’ kidnapped the Dixie or Southern flag from its tradition and the heritage of the soldiers.” He added, “We didn’t want that to go to our fans or show the image like we agreed with any of the race stuff or any of the bad things.” Naturally, their fans were angered over Rossington’s statements, as if they were now ashamed of their Southern roots. One online rant even suggested that the band should call their next album Sweet Home Massachusetts.” The band claims they still use the Heart of Dixie flag in their live shows and are proud of their heritage. Adds Rossington: “It’s about heritage, not hate.”
(Most Likely to Vote Obama)
Band members of ‘80’s pop-rock band Journey were a bit tightlipped when questioned about their appearance at this year’s RNC for a post-convention fundraising event at Tampa’s Liberty Plaza. But leave it to TMZ to spill the beans on their $500K 90-minute concert, funded by the American Action Network. “The money was good,” Neal Schon told TV tabloid Entertainment Tonight. “We came to entertain.” But don’t stop believin’ that Journey is all for Romney, just because he’s a generous tipper. Schon is a registered Democrat.
Taylor Hicks
(Most Likely to Vote Romney)
‘Idol’ winner Taylor Hicks, who’s headlining Bally’s in Vegas, should know whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. That rule of thumb doesn’t apply to what happens at the RNC in Tampa. This year, Hicks performed Thursday night at the convention.  “You run the risk of performing and entertaining in a political area, but as an entertainer you have to take risks,” Hicks told Huffington Post. “I don’t really talk about my party or political affiliations.” Still, Hicks didn’t write off his chances of performing for the Dems. “I would go to the Democratic National Convention too, if I was invited,” he adds. He still considered the RNC musical guest appearance to be a honor, stating that “it was just one of those things you can’t turn down.”
BeBe Winans
(Most Likely to Vote Romney)
Gospel singer BeBe Winans doesn’t mince his words when recalling his precious memories with the late Whitney Houston (see his new book). And he doesn’t dash away from the limelight when the opportunity comes. But he took a peculiar downcast stance when questioned about his political affiliation after performing at this year’s RNC. “Why not be here?,” he told “Why not be part of the process? It’s all about letting people know that we are Americans first, before any association with any party, so that’s why I’m here.”
Winans performed “America the Beautiful,” a song heard on his new CD full of re-arranged patriotic anthems, on the convention’s last night. It’s the kind of musical cologne that Pat Robertson’s 700 Club is attracted to.
Trace Adkins
Back in April, country star Trace Adkins wasn’t totally sold out for Romney, but he made himself abundantly clear that he’s supporting whoever the majority of conservatives select as their presidential nominee. Now that Romney has claimed his prize, the “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” baritone hopes for a Romney-Ryan administration. “I am going to support him 100 percent and hopefully we’ll get a Republican back in the White House,” he told Newsmax. Adkins, a major supporter of the NRA, recently sung a new patriotic song “Tough People Do” at the RNC that also took a few light jabs at Obama. Some political pundits are actually calling it the party’s unofficial theme song in 2012. Unfortunately, the song has not been released as an official single.
Hank Williams, Jr.
Did you seriously believe that Hank Jr. would ever throw his support towards Obama a year after his ‘Fox & Friends’ Hitler gaffe in 2011? Things haven’t changed. At a performance at the Stockyards Music Festival, Williams threw a few more jabs below the belt at Obama. “We’ve got a Muslim for a President who hates cowboys, hates cowgirls, hate fishing, hates farming, loves gays, and we hate him.” The Texas crowd cheered him on.

Tom Morello

Paul Ryan loves Rage Against the Machine. But Rage’s guitarist Tom Morello, whose activism spreads all the way to last year’s Occupy Wall Street movement, wrote a special op-ed for Rolling Stone that turned the rage on the Republican veep of choice.  “Ryan claims that he likes Rage’s sound, but not the lyrics. Well, I don’t care for Paul Ryan’s sound or his lyrics. He can like whatever bands he wants, but his guiding vision of shifting revenue more radically to the one percent is antithetical to the message of Rage.” Oh, the rest of the rant makes Clint Eastwood’s one-man stage play look like a Pixar flick.

Stay tuned for ROUND 2 of Rockin’ the Vote.
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About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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