Musicians who opposed Trump's use of their music in 2020
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President TrumpDonald TrumpBaldwin calls Trump criticism following 'Rust' shooting 'surreal' Haley hits the stump in South Carolina Mary Trump files to dismiss Trump's lawsuit over NYT tax story MORE has repeatedly feuded with musical acts that have sued him to prevent his campaign from using their music at events.

Here's a look at the musicians and bands who pushed back after Trump used their songs this year during his unsuccessful reelection bid:


John Fogerty of Creedance Clearwater Revival

Former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty lashed out at Trump for using the band’s anti-Vietnam War anthem “Fortunate Son” at events this fall.

The veteran said he wrote the song in 1969 after being drafted in the Army, frustrated by how rich people with privilege and money could avoid the draft. Fogerty said he also “wrote about wealthy people not paying their fair share of taxes.”

“Mr. Trump is a prime example of both of these issues” Fogerty said. “The fact that Mr. Trump also fans the flames of hatred, racism and fear while rewriting recent history, is even more reason to be troubled by his use of my song.”

The rock icon hit the Trump campaign with a cease-and-desist letter in October to prevent the tune from being played at the president’s reelection rallies. 

However, Trump, who received five deferments from the military draft during the Vietnam War, continued to use the song, including during his entrance to a Florida rally on Marine One just days later.

Neil Young

Rock legend Neil Young in August filed a copyright infringement lawsuit, alleging the Trump campaign did not have the proper licensing to play “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Devil’s Sidewalk” at the June 20 rally in Tulsa, Okla.

"This complaint is not intended to disrespect the rights and opinions of American citizens, who are free to support the candidate of their choosing,” the complaint posted to the musician’s website states. “However, Plaintiff in good conscience cannot allow his music to be used as a 'theme song' for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate."

Young also criticized the playing of his songs at a Mount Rushmore Independence Day event Trump attended.

"I stand in solidarity with the Lakota Sioux & this is NOT ok with me," Young tweeted last month.


Trump has used Young's music for years, the lawsuit noted. The then-GOP candidate first used one of Young’s song after announcing his plans to run for president at a 2015 rally at Trump Tower. 

Young concluded his lawsuit against Trump’s campaign in early December. The case was dismissed with prejudice, which means that Young’s claims cannot be renewed in separate filings. The move is usually a sign of a settlement, The Hollywood Reporter noted, though none was announced. 

Tom Petty

Family members of the late Tom Petty intervened in June after Trump continued to use the rock legend’s 1989 song “I Won’t Back Down,” issuing a cease-and-desist notice to the campaign.

“Trump was in no way authorized to use this song to further a campaign that leaves too many Americans and common sense behind,” the family said in a statement.  “Both the late Tom Petty and his family firmly stand against racism and discrimination of any kind. Tom Petty would never want a song of his used for a campaign of hate. He liked to bring people together.”

The family said they believe everyone is free to vote as they wish but made clear the Petty family and the late musician, who died in 2017, did not support the president.


The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones sent cease-and-desist letters during Trump's 2016 campaign. However, Trump continued to play their songs at his rallies and frequently walked out to their 1969 hit “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

In June, the rock band said its legal representatives were working with performers-rights group Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) to prevent the campaign’s continued use of their songs.

“The BMI have notified the Trump campaign on behalf of the Stones that the unauthorized use of their songs will constitute a breach of its licensing agreement,” the band said in a statement. “If Donald Trump disregards the exclusion and persists, then he would face a lawsuit for breaking the embargo and playing music that has not been licensed.’’

Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco


Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco slammed Trump in June after the president walked out to the band’s song “High Hopes” before an event in Phoenix.

“Dear Trump campaign,” the singer wrote on Twitter. “F--- you. You’re not invited. Stop playing my song. No thanks, Brendon Urie, Panic! At The Disco & company.”

In a follow-up tweet, Urie wrote that Trump “represents nothing we stand for.”

“The highest hope we have is voting this monster out in November. Please do your part,” he added.

Eddy Grant

Musician Eddy Grant sued the Trump campaign in September, alleging that it was infringing on his copyrights to the hit 1983 song "Electric Avenue."

Grant filed the complaint in federal court in New York in response to a video Trump promoted on his Twitter account on Aug. 12 that attacked Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE.  The animated video was originally posted to the personal Twitter account of Dan Scavino, White House deputy chief of staff.

The video attempted to mock Biden by showing a train with the Trump campaign's logo followed by a railroad handcar the former vice president is manually operating. 

It was later removed by Twitter after it was flagged for copyright issues. However, it racked up nearly 14 million views before it was disabled.

Grant’s lawyers argued in court filings that having the singer’s name connected to Trump in a political context “is a serious transgression” that would harm Grant’s reputation.

“In my particular case, they have sought to encapsulate my intellectual property into derogatory political rhetoric, further encapsulated in a video production that can only be construed at best as being wicked, thereby causing me considerable emotional distress,” the Guyanese star wrote in a statement.

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen died the day before the presidential election in 2016 at age 82. “Hallelujah,” first released in 1984, was one of his most-performed songs.

A lawyer representing the late Canadian singer-songwriter's estate threatened legal action in August after the Republican National Convention used a cover of "Hallelujah" during a fireworks show following Trump’s acceptance speech at the White House. 

Vulture reported that the Republican National Committee (RNC) requested permission to use the song and was denied twice but organizers decided to use it anyways. 

“We are surprised and dismayed that the RNC would proceed knowing that the Cohen Estate had specifically declined the RNC’s use request, and their rather brazen attempt to politicize and exploit in such an egregious manner ‘Hallelujah,’ one of the most important songs in the Cohen song catalogue,” Michelle Rice, legal representative of the Cohen Estate, said in a statement. 

Rice said that they might have considered allowing the RNC to play “You Want It Darker,” which won the singer a posthumous Grammy in 2017.

The song included more somber lyrics such as "If you are the dealer, let me out of the game / If you are the healer, I'm broken and lame / If thine is the glory, mine must be the shame / You want it darker."

The RNC played a specific cover of "Hallelujah" from artist Tori Kelly, who said in a since-deleted tweet that neither herself nor her team received a request from the political organization to use her version. 

Phil Collins

English musician Phil Collins objected to the unauthorized use of “In the Air Tonight” being played ahead of Trump's arrival in Iowa back in October. 

“Yes we are well aware of the Trump campaign’s use of this song and we have already issued a ‘cease and desist’ letter via our lawyers who continue to monitor the situation,” a representative for Collins told Consequence of Sound.

Collins accused the campaign of being tone deaf for using that specific song during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The use of the tune was “not only wholly unauthorized but, as various press articles have commented, particularly inappropriate since it was apparently intended as a satirical reference to Covid-19,” the musician’s lawyers argued. “That reference was made at a time when Iowa was suffering from an acceleration of Covid-19 infection. Mr. Collins does not condone the apparent trivialization of Covid-19.”

Village People

“Y.M.C.A” was one of Trump’s most used songs on the campaign trail this year. Clips of him dancing to the 1978 single even went viral. 

The iconic disco group Village People said in February that their fans demanded they prevent Trump from using “Y.M.C.A” or their other songs like “Macho Man.”

But the group gave the Trump campaign a green light, noting that their music was never being used for a specific endorsement so Trump’s use was “’perfect[ly]' legal."

"Like millions of Village People fans worldwide, the President and his supporters have shown a genuine like for our music," the entire group initially said in a Facebook post. "Our music is all-inclusive and certainly everyone is entitled to do the YMCA dance, regardless of their political affiliation."

However, the group changed their tune in June after protests broke out across the country calling for racial justice and an end to police brutality.

Leader singer Victor Willis specifically cited Trump’s controversial decision to have federal agents disperse a crowd that had gathered outside of the White House so he would have a photo op outside of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

“If Trump orders the U.S. military to fire on his own citizens (on U.S. soil), Americans will rise up in such numbers outside of the White House that he might be forced out of office prior to the election,” Willis wrote on Facebook. “Don't do it Mr. President!”

If Trump orders the U.S. military to fire on his own citizens (on U.S. soil), Americans will rise up in such numbers...

Posted by Victor Willis on Friday, June 5, 2020


Mike Mills, the bassist for R.E.M., said in January that the band was considering legal action against the president’s campaign after years of frustration.

During a rally in Milwaukee at the beginning of 2020, Trump played  R.E.M. songs "Everybody Hurts" and "Losing My Religion.

"We are aware that the President* @realDonaldTrump continues to use our music at his rallies. We are exploring all legal avenues to prevent this, but if that’s not possible please know that we do not condone the use of our music by this fraud and con man," Mills wrote on Twitter.

The band had been fighting Trump since 2015 for flouting their wishes and using their tunes.

After being confronted by a lawyer for Universal Music Publishing Group in February of last year, Twitter removed a Trump video that played "Everybody Hurts" over a video mocking Democrats.

In 2015, the band issued a statement after Trump entered a "Stop the Iran Deal" rally to R.E.M.’s 1987 classic "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).”

“Go f--- yourselves, the lot of you — you sad, attention-grabbing, power-hungry little men. Do not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign," the band’s singer Michael Stipe said at the time. 

Linkin Park

The band was quick to issue a cease-and-desist letter in July over the use of their song, "In The End," in a video pushed out by Trump. 

"Linkin Park did not and does not endorse Trump, nor authorize his organization to use any of our music. A cease and desist has been issue," they wrote on Twitter. 

The video included a cover of the song from artist Jung Youth, who also condemned being featured in a "propaganda" push from the Trump White House. 

“Earlier today I found out that trump illegally used a cover song that I am part of in a propaganda video which he tweeted…anyone who knows me knows I stand firmly against bigotry and racism,” the artist tweeted. “Much love to everyone in the twitter community who helped get the video taken down fr!!”

The video was taken down by Twitter after receiving a Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice from a rights holder. The company said that according to its copyright policy, "we respond to valid copyright complaints sent to us by copyright owner or their authorized representative."