Neil Young expands on his response to Donald Trump’s use of ‘Free World’ song

Singer-songwriter Neil Young, shown performing with Crazy Horse in 2012 at the Hollywood Bowl, has elaborated on his statement explaining why he objected to Donald Trump using his song "Rockin' in the Free World" in a presidential bid.

Singer-songwriter Neil Young, shown performing with Crazy Horse in 2012 at the Hollywood Bowl, has elaborated on his statement explaining why he objected to Donald Trump using his song “Rockin’ in the Free World” in a presidential bid.

(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Neil Young has now elaborated on the short response he issued Tuesday to Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who used Young’s song “Rockin’ in the Free World” during the announcement of his presidential candidacy.

Initially, Young issued a short statement saying he did not authorize Trump’s use of the song. Candidates are not legally required to get a musician’s permission to use a song at a live political event, as long as they pay the public performance royalty to performance rights organizations such as ASCAP and BMI.

But most politicians, when asked, have respected musicians’ requests that they stop using specific songs. Some disputed cases have gone to court to be resolved.

Young’s manager subsequently said he requested Trump’s camp to stop using “Rockin’ in the Free World,” and the developer-politician’s representatives have said they will no longer play it during his campaign.


On Thursday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member and longtime social-political activist explained himself further by way of the statement posted to his Facebook page, in part because some Internet sites posted a photo of Trump together with Young to suggest Young was endorsing Trump’s candidacy.

In the statement, Young references the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission, in which the nation’s highest court ruled that it was unconstitutional to restrict independent expenditures by corporations, unions and other associations, effectively allowing them to contribute unlimited funds to political campaigns.

Here is the text of Young’s statement:

“Yesterday my song ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ was used in an announcement for a U.S. presidential candidate without my permission.

“A picture of me with this candidate was also circulated in conjunction with this announcement, but it was a photograph taken during a meeting when I was trying to raise funds for Pono, my online high-resolution music service.

“Music is a universal language. So I am glad that so many people with varying beliefs get enjoyment from my music, even if they don’t share my beliefs.

“But had I been asked to allow my music to be used for a candidate, I would have said no.

“I am Canadian and I don’t vote in the United States, but more importantly, I don’t like the current political system in the USA and some other countries.


“Increasingly democracy has been hijacked by corporate interests. The money needed to run for office, the money spent on lobbying by special interests, the ever-increasing economic disparity and the well-funded legislative decisions all favor corporate interests over the people.

“The Citizens United Supreme Court ruling is proof of this corruption, as well as the proposed trade deals, which would further compromise our rights.

“These corporations were originally created to serve us, but if we don’t appropriately prioritize, they will destroy us. Corporations don’t have children. They don’t have feelings or soul. They don’t depend on uncontaminated water, clean air or healthy food to survive. They are beholden to one thing: the bottom line.

“I choose to speak truth to this economic power. When I speak out on corporations hurting the common man or the environment or other species, I expect a well-financed disinformation campaign to be aimed my way.


“Such is the case with the reaction to my new album ‘The Monsanto Years’, which covers many of these issues. I support those bringing these issues to light and those who fight for their rights like freedom of choice.

“But freedom of choice is meaningless without knowledge.

“That’s why it’s crucial we all get engaged and get informed.

“That’s why GMO labeling matters. Mothers need to know what they are feeding their children. They need freedom to make educated choices at the market. When the people have voted for labeling, as they have in Vermont, they need our support when they are fighting these corporate interests trying to reverse the laws they have voted for and passed in the democratic process.


“I do not trust self-serving misinformation coming from corporations and their media trolls. I do not trust politicians who are taking millions from those corporations either. I trust people. So I make my music for people not for candidates.

“Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World.”

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