The other day when Kim Davis was released from prison in connection with her refusal to do the job for which she was paid by the State of Kentucky, fellow theocrat Huckabee came swooping in to stand by her before a cheering crowd of racists and bigots. As they emerged triumphantly from Davis’ dungeon, they played a recording of the popular 1982 hit, “Eye of the Tiger,” by the group Survivor. Yes, that song, used for the film Rocky III, came out 33 years ago. However, it’s still under copyright, and Huckabee had no authorization to use the recording from the band or the writer of the song.
Frankie Sullivan, the song’s co-writer, has not decided conclusively whether to take immediate legal action against the Huckabee campaign. However, he told Rolling Stone the issue is as much personal as it is political:
I do not agree with Kim Davis’ stance and do not believe in denying gay rights and the freedom for all individuals to choose the lifestyle they want to live. Our Constitution, and the words of our Founding Fathers, stand tall for freedom, which is what America is all about. I find it ridiculous in this day and age that this fight against gay marriage has gone on, even after the Supreme Court’s ruling. Let’s stop!
Sullivan further said: “I do not like mixing rock and roll with politics; they do not go hand in hand. What upset me most was that, once again, my song was being used to further a political agenda – and no one even bothered to ask for permission.” In 2012, Sullivan did sue New Gingrich when he used the same song without permission. The two settled out of court.
Huckabee is not the first GOP politician to get in trouble over unauthorized use of a song. In 2012, Mitt Romney was hit with a “cease and desist” order from Survivor over his unauthorized use of the same song at his campaign rallies. Newt Gingrich was likewise ordered to stop his use of “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan. In 2008, Sarah Palin drew fire from the band Heart for using their song “Barracuda, who demanded she stop using it at her rallies. That same year, the Ohio GOP was sued by Jackson Browne for their illegal and unauthorized use of “Running on Empty” in ads attacking Barack Obama. In 2000, George W. Bush helped himself to a 1989 Tom Petty hit, “I Won’t Back Down” – and received a cease and desist order from the publisher on grounds that Bush’s use of the song implied an endorsement from Petty. The artist refused to give such an endorsement.
Democratic candidates have also used popular songs throughout the years, of course. The most famous example was “Happy Days Are Here Again,” written for the 1930 musical Chasing Rainbows. The decision to use the song for FDR’s campaign was made by his advisers on a spur-the-moment during the 1932 Democratic National Convention. For some reason, songwriters Milton Ager and Jack Yellen didn’t object. Perhaps the fact that the country was sick and tired of Herbert Hoover and the GOP had something to do with it – and its people desperately needed to believe in the song’s message. Decades later, Barack Obama used a Stevie Wonder song, entitled “Signed, Sealed and Delivered.” Significantly, Stevie Wonder himself has performed at a few Democratic conventions over the years, strongly suggesting that the President had the artist’s full approval.
The entire issue illustrates the stark differences between the two parties, and between conservatives and liberals. Liberals and Progressives respect labor and creativity. In return, musical artists have frequently been willing to lend their talents and their songs to candidates and causes in which they believe, whether or not there is remuneration involved. Repukes, on the other hand, repeatedly spit on labor and denigrate artists. They feel they can simply take what they want for their own purposes. This is not only illegal – it is offensive.
Huckabee and Davis are about to get some very expensive schooling on this topic.