“Well I won’t back down
No I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down
No I’ll stand my ground, won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin me down
Gonna stand my ground
… and I won’t back down”
— “Won’t Back Down” – Tom Petty
It’s a song of defiance and immovability so powerful that it’s a natural choice for politicians trying to project a hardline image to use to rally their bases.
Unfortunately for Donald Trump, the estate of the late rock elder statesman Tom Petty was adamant that they wouldn’t back down from their refusal to allow the use of this anthemic song in any of his campaign events ever again as they made quite clear in a post on Twitter announcing that they had issued an official cease and desist notice to the president’s campaign.
— Tom Petty (@tompetty) June 21, 2020
While rock music has had a long history of progressive social activism by its leading luminaries dating back to the 1960s era of the protests against the Vietnam War through to the anti-apartheid activism of “Sun City” and the charitable efforts of Live Aid, “We Are The World,” and other similar efforts, in the genre’s old age, as its popularity has been surpassed by newer styles like hip hop and EDM, it has become less of a driving cultural force than it was in its younger days.
That hasn’t stopped artists from the Rolling Stones to Bruce Springsteen from making their displeasure known when one of their recordings has been appropriated by the Trump campaign to entertain his base at bund-like rallies and help push messages diametrically opposed to their personal values.
Springsteen made news last week when he blasted Trump for his pitiful management of the COVID-19 pandemic during an episode of his SiriusXM radio show.
“With 100,000 plus Americans dying over the last few months and the empty, shamed response from our leaders, I’ve been simply pissed off,” Bruce said during his Wednesday episode. “Those lives deserve better than being simply inconvenient statistics for our president’s reelection efforts. It’s a national disgrace.”
“Instead of celebrating the joys of summer today, we will be contemplating our current circumstances with the coronavirus and the cost it has drawn from our nation. We will be calculating what we’ve lost, sending prayers for the deceased and the families they have left behind,” he continued, changing the planned theme of the show from a celebration of summer to a meditation on coronavirus casulaties.
“So, if you are ready for a rock & roll requiem, stay tuned,” the Boss said before dedicating an appropirate song to Trump. “I’m going to start out by sending one to the man sitting behind the resolute desk.”
“With all respect, sir, show some consideration and care for your countrymen and your country. Put on a f—ing mask. This is Bob Dylan with ‘Disease of Conceit.’”
While Springsteen has had a long history of political activism, his reputation as the bard of the working class makes his repudiation of Trump all the more effective at exposing the president’s hypocritical policymaking that is designed to help the wealthy while harming the very base that he is trying to convince to continue supporting him.
Let’s hope that more artists take a stand on their principles and prevent Trump from exploiting their artistry for his own benefit.
That the public is wising up to Trump’s broken promises and his incompetence in keeping Americans safe during this pandemic is made very clear by the suggestions of another Tom Petty song that humorists on Twitter have chosen as a better reflection of the president’s re-election campaign and his currently plunging poll numbers:
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.