Billionaire Donald Trump, a Republican, announced his bid for the presidency with Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” blasting in the background, and once again a political candidate has associated himself with a rock star without the endorsement of said star.
“Donald Trump was not authorized to use ‘Rockin' in the Free World’ in his presidential candidacy announcement,” Young, 69, told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday through his longtime manager, Elliot Roberts. “Neil Young, a Canadian citizen, is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for president of the United States of America,” referring to the U.S. senator from Vermont who is vying for the Democratic nomination in 2016.
Young, a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, has long been associated with political causes championed by liberals, but in the 1980s, he left some followers perplexed when he spoke supportively of Republican President Reagan. He also sang at that time about the legacy of the Woodstock generation being little more than “a hippie dream.”
In recent years, however, Young has been actively involved in the development of green alternatives to gasoline-powered automobiles, devoting considerable time, energy and resources to the LincVolt, a converted 1959 Lincoln Continental that runs on electricity and biodiesel fuel.
“Rockin’ in the Free World” was released in 1989 on Young’s “Freedom” album, a song that addressed the meaning of patriotism in a world in which drug-addicted mothers could abandon their babies and in which the environment continued to be threatened by pollution.
Young referenced then-Republican presidential candidate George H.W. Bush’s plea for a “kinder, gentler nation” and his “thousand points of light” description of the nation’s history of volunteerism as he sang: “We got a thousand points of light / for the homeless man / We got a kinder, gentler machine gun hand.”
Many rockers, including Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, Heart, the Beastie Boys, David Byrne, the Foo Fighters, John Mellencamp and the Silversun Pickups, have demanded that candidates who used their music without permission stop using those songs for political purposes. Typically the requests have involved conservative candidates using songs by liberal musicians.
Roberts said he has contacted Trump’s camp and requested that it stop using the song.