Survivor songwriter wants Gingrich to stop using ‘Eye of the Tiger’

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Regardless of the outcome in today’s Florida primary, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich may want to take a closer look at his campaign’s playlist. A member of Chicago rock band Survivor has taken legal measures to stop the Gingrich campaign from using the band’s underdog theme ‘Eye of the Tiger,’ the Oscar-nominated song written for ‘Rocky III.’

News of the lawsuit hit media outlets Monday afternoon, and early Tuesday, Survivor guitarist-songwriter Frankie Sullivan posted a statement on the group’s official Facebook page. While numerous rock ‘n’ rollers have gone after Republican candidates charging unsanctioned use of music, Sullivan said he wants to keep politics out of his cause.


‘I’m sure many of you have heard the news about the request for Newt Gingrich to stop using ‘Eye of the Tiger’ as his campaign song,’ he wrote. ‘It is not for political reasons, it is strictly an artist protecting their copyright.’

Pop & Hiss requested a statement late Monday from the Gingrich campaign and has not yet received a response.

Sullivan’s attorney told the Chicago Tribune, which like The Times is owned by the Tribune Co., that the artist had reached out to Gingrich before taking legal initiative. ‘We’ve tried to deal with them for months, and they’ve been trying to ignore it,’ said Sullivan’s lawyer, Annette McGarry.

Gingrich has been associating himself with Rocky Balboa since at least 2009, and as recently as this month was using the song at campaign stops. Videos online (posted below) show Gingrich making dramatic use of the song’s extended intro, with the candidate entering rooms from the back and walking through the crowd to ‘Eye of the Tiger’s’ signature guitar riffs.

Gingrich’s campaign doesn’t mark the first time the ‘Rocky III’ song has been used at Republican events. In 2008, then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin appeared at an Asheville, N.C., rally to the tune of ‘Eye of the Tiger.’

The issue of how rock ‘n’ roll is used by politicians is one that crops up every election year and, increasingly, one many musicians take issue with when it’s Republican candidates utilizing the music. Perhaps most famoulsy, of course, was Ronald Reagan’s unsanctioned use of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the U.S.A.’


Last summer, Tom Petty’s camp sent a cease-and-desist letter to Michele Bachmann’s campaign over the use of his ‘American Girl,’ and in 2008, Jackson Browne sued John McCain for using the song ‘Running on Empty’ in a campaign ad. Heartland rocker John Mellencamp also took issue with McCain’s use of his music, and would ring the candidate each time one of his songs was played.

Former Talking Heads leader David Byrne was even able to get a formal apology out of former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist over unauthorized use of his band’s song “Road to Nowhere” in a 2010 campaign ad.


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-- Todd Martens