A Brief History of Hilariously Inappropriate Campaign Songs


It’s Election Day, and really there’s not a great deal more we can say here beyond that we hope you all get out and exercise your right to vote. (And, y’know, don’t fuck it up.) God only knows what sort of a world we’ll be waking up in once all the counting is done, but if nothing else, it means the election hoopla will be over for another four years. As ever, we’ve endured rather than enjoyed the endless campaigning that election year brings, but if nothing else, the music chosen by this year’s candidates has provided its usual comedy value. So to soundtrack your voting efforts, here’s a selection of hilariously inappropriate campaign songs from over the years — honestly, when will politicians learn to start listening to the lyrics? (We also hope that everyone reading this in NYC stops by Le Poisson Rouge on Bleecker St. for our Lunch Break party today, at which LCD Soundsystem’s Pat Mahoney will be spinning precisely none of these songs.)

George H.W. Bush (1998): Woody Guthrie — “This Land Is Your Land”

The Republican Party has a long and ignominious history of appropriating amusingly inappropriate songs on the basis of their title and hoping that no one would listen to the words — cf. “Born in the USA,” in particular — but this takes the proverbial biscuit. Poor Woody Guthrie was probably spinning in his grave like a turbocharged dynamo at the thought of his socialist anthem being used to promote the GOP, and we can’t imagine the party faithful would take kindly to lines like, “There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me/ Sign was painted, it said ‘private property’/ But on the back side it didn’t say nothing/ This land was made for you and me!”

“This Land Is My Land” image credit: Shepard Fairey

Rudy Giuliani (2008): The Clash — “Rudie Can’t Fail”

Also on the turning-in-their-grave front, sadly we’ll never get the chance to ask Joe Strummer just how hilarious he might have found the idea of Mr. Zero Tolerance soundtracking his campaign with a song about a bunch of layabout rude boys who spend their time “drinking brew for breakfast” and refusing to get jobs. Nor, sadly, will Joe ever get the chance to giggle at the fact that Rudy did indeed fail, and spectacularly so — but that shouldn’t stop the rest of us.

Mitt Romney (2012): K’naan — “Wavin’ Flag”

“A violence-prone, poor people zone/ But it’s my home, all I have known.” Yep, that sounds like our Mitt’s family history, alright.

Bob Dole (1996): Sam and Dave — “Dole Man”

This may well only be hilarious to those of us who come from countries where “the dole” refers to unemployment benefits — but rest assured that if you do come from such a country, Bob Dole rocking out to a repurposed version of Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man” is very amusing indeed.

Hillary Clinton (2008): Bachman-Turner Overdrive, “Taking Care of Business”

Again, people, listen to the lyrics. Unless La Clinton was trying to channel the spirit of “Dole Man,” we’re guessing she missed the bit where Bachman-Turner Overdrive extol the virtues of doing as little as possible: “It’s the work that we avoid/ And we’re all self-employed/ We love to work at nothing all day.” It’s the American way!

Ross Perot (1992): Patsy Cline — “Crazy”

Man: “Well, I believe I’ll vote for a third-party candidate.” Kang: “GO AHEAD! THROW YOUR VOTE AWAY!”

George McGovern (1972): Simon and Garfunkel — “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

Oh, if only anyone had known just how much trouble that Water(gate) was gonna cause, eh?

Mike Huckabee (2008): Boston — “More Than a Feeling”

Frankly, we’re not entirely sure what this means in a political context — does Mike Huckabee want to have sex with all of us? Or does he just want us all to sit down and hold hands and believe really, really hard? Either way, it was all too much for Boston’s Tom Scholz, who asked Huckabee to cease and desist forthwith.

George W. Bush (2004): Brooks and Dunn — “Only In America”

Well, quite.

Saddam Hussein (2002): Dolly Parton — “I Will Always Love You”

This might sound like something out of South Park, but it’s all true, and it’s too good not to include here — the late Iraqi dictator really did choose an Arabic-language cover of Dolly Parton’s überballad “I Will Always Love You” to soundtrack his campaign in the country’s 2002 “election” (a term we used as loosely as possible here). There’s really nothing more to say here, is there?