Waterloo Sunset
by David Goodloe

I love music, all kinds of music.

I guess that is to be expected. I was raised with the sounds of music filling the house. My mother loved folk music. My father loved Middle Eastern music. They both loved classical music and bluegrass.

In that environment, as I say, I developed a fondness for all kinds of music. I liked the music my parents liked — still do — but I also liked the music that was popular with others of my generation.

Hey, I’ll listen to Mozart or Ravi Shankar or Hank Williams any time and be quite content to do so, but I’m also a product of my times, and the music of my times was rock ‘n’ roll — or what is simply known as classic rock today.

Oh, well, as Shakespeare said, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

I love the Beatles. I love the Rolling Stones and the Who and Bob Dylan, and I love some of the lesser lights as well. Elvis was before my time, but I appreciate what he did all the same, just as I appreciate the contributions of Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly.

Anyway, I didn’t watch Michele Bachmann’s announcement the other day in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, that she was going to run for the Republican presidential nomination. But I wasn’t surprised to learn that she had used a Tom Petty song — “American Girl” — to pump up the crowd.

What did surprise me, however, was the fact that neither she nor anyone from her staff apparently ever contacted Petty or any of the members of his band to see if they had any objections to her use of the song.

With all the talk on the Republican side of the fence about protecting and preserving one’s property rights, I would have thought she would be particularly careful about being sure that her ducks are in a row when it comes to intellectual property issues.

But she wasn’t careful. And Petty has kindly asked her to cool it.

I guess it was a natural mistake. Hillary Clinton used the song at her rallies in 2008, and Bachmann must have assumed it was in the public domain.

But that isn’t how it works.

Well, Hillary and Michele don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. Maybe Petty didn’t mind if Hillary used his song, but he does mind if Michele uses it.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that a politician has tried to score points with the public through popular music. It has often been used in campaign rallies and advertising.

In a way, I suppose this is fitting. Republicans have been openly yearning for the next Ronald Reagan, and this flap over music might give Michele an advantage in that competition.

But that might not really be an advantage.

When he was running for re–election in 1984, Reagan — in what must have been a bid for the youth vote — tried to link himself to Bruce Springsteen, who may have been the most popular performer in America at the time.

He was also riding high on the charts with “Born in the U.S.A.,” and Reagan was eager to capitalize on the“message of hope” he perceived in the song.

Problem was that the song was about the negative influence on Americans because of the Vietnam War — a war that Reagan had praised as a “noble cause.”

That’s the real issue here, isn’t it? Some people are so eager to score political points with cultural references that they don’t bother to look beyond the title or the melody.

In their haste, they give voters an insight into the kind of attention to detail they can be expected to bring to the issues they will confront in office.

Reminds me of the words from another classic rock song.

If the band you’re in starts playing different tunes, I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

David Goodloe got his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas in 1982, and his master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas in 1991. He publishes the thoughtful weblog Freedom Writing. This post is cross posted from his website.

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