Tom Petty’s Family Angry Trump Played “I Won’t Back Down” at Tulsa Rally


JUNE 21, 20202:08 PM

President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Tom Petty’s family is none too happy that President Donald Trump played “I Won’t Back Down” at his rally in Tulsa on Saturday and wants to make sure it never happens again. The family said it has sent a formal “cease and desist notice to the Trump campaign” so the song doesn’t get used in the same manner again.

In a letter posted on Twitter, Petty’s daughters Adria and Annakim as well as his ex-wife jane and his widow Dana Petty, said the president was “in no way authorized to use this song to further a campaign that leaves too many Americans and common sense left behind.” The legendary singer-songwriter, who died in 2017, “wrote this song for the underdog, for the common man and for everyone,” Petty’s family said.

The holders of Petty’s estate and rights said that the late singer and his family “firmly stand against racism and discrimination of any kind. Tom Petty would never want a song of his used for a campaign of hate. He liked to bring people together.” In the statement, they say that while “everyone is free to vote as they like, think as they like, but the Petty family doesn’t stand for this.” The family went on to say that they wouldn’t want anyone to think that the use of Petty’s music amounts to an endorsement of the president’s reelection campaign:

We believe in America and we believe in democracy. But Donald Trump is not representing the noble ideals of either. We would hate for fans that are marginalized by this administration to think we were complicit in this usage. Concurrently, we have issued a cease and desist notice to the Trump campaign.

The statement from Petty’s family marks the latest chapter in a long history of musicians objecting to Trump using their songs in rallies. The publisher of rock band Queen, for example, forced a Trump video to be taken down last year because it used “We Will Rock You” as its soundtrack. That same year, Prince’s estate said it will “never” give Trump permission to play the late artist’s songs. A year earlier, Pharrell angrily objected to the song “Happy” being used at a Trump rally and Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler called on Trump to stop using the band’s songs, including “Livin’ on the Edge.” Adele and Neil Young have also called on Trump to not use their music in his rallies.

The truth is though that often there is little that musicians can do to prevent their songs from playing at political rallies. That’s because musicians often hand over the rights to perform their music to performance rights organizations so they do not need to be consulted. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones pretty much confirmed that was the case during a Twitter Q&A in which he admitted artists “can’t stop” people from playing their songs. Axl Rose also complained about that, saying GNR “has formally requested r music not b used at Trump rallies or Trump associated events” but the Trump campaign was “using loopholes” to ignore their requests.

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