For some reason, I had Rush drummer Neil Peart on the brain this morning. I’m not sure why. I haven’t listened to any Rush music in ages.
It would be a shame if Rush’s musical boycott of Rush’s broadcasts leads to listeners of Rush (the AM talker) ceasing to be listeners of Rush (the FM rockers). “Red Barchetta”, “Subdivisions”, “The Pass”, and “Tom Sawyer” remain on the radio decades after we first heard them for good reason. The same is true of Rush Limbaugh.
Rush, like Rush, are very good at what they do. A boycott for a boycott leaves the whole world broke.
Now I can understand Rush not wanting Rush to use their music. Imagine if you’re a country artist who is a conservative. You might not appreciate it if you hear your song being played by Rachel Maddow after she calls Dan Savage a genius for orchestrating a campaign to savage Rick Santorum’s name on Google. On the other hand, artists have no control over who might like their music. So it’s entirely possible for Rush Limbaugh to like Rush’s music even he doesn’t agree with their political views.
The Canadian progressive rock trio isn’t the only musical act to demand Limbaugh stop using their music following his crude comments against Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke for which he has since apologized. Peter Gabriel and Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds have also demanded that Limbaugh stop using their music as well. Limbaugh has used both Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” and The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ “Tuff Enuff” (both of which were big hits in the fall of 1986.)
Of course, we’ve seen this stuff on the campaign trail. During the 2008 campaign, Heart went crazy on Sarah Palin for playing “Barracuda” (a song that was associated with her long before she entered politics) during the 2008 campaign. In 2012, Tom Petty lived up to his name when he asked Michele Bachmann to stop playing “American Girl” at her rallies while Newt Gingrich was sued for his homage to Rocky III when he played “Eye of the Tiger” at his rallies and at other events prior to his presidential campaign. Now Newt uses Rick Derringer’s “I am a Real American” as he did following Super Tuesday. Am I the only one to notice a Hulk Hogan theme in Newt’s musical tastes?
It is worth noting attorney Larry Iser (who went to court to stop John McCain from playing Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty”) doesn’t think Rush has a case against Rush because radio stations are permitted to play any music from a publishing catalogue. So when Rush plays a snippet of a Rush song, Geddy Lee and company get paid. Iser adds that if an artist doesn’t want a program to pay their song, the program can always play another song. But that could mean another cease and desist letter.
Perhaps the best thing Rush and conservative politicians can do is to hire musicians to write material for them. They could take a page from JFK’s book and have Frank Sinatra ask Sammy Cahn re-write the lyrics of “High Hopes” and Jack Kennedy gets elected to the White House. Surely we can find our Sammy Cahns?