When a musician you like takes a stand on a political, environmental, human rights, or other issue, does it cause you to reevaluate your decision to listen to and/or continue to enjoy their music?
The most recent example is country singer Tim McGraw who will headline a benefit concert for Sandy Hook Promise, a group advocating common sense gun laws, organized following the 2012 elementary school shooting that left 26 dead.
The concert is scheduled for July 17th in Hartford, Connecticut, and is the result of a friendship between one of McGraw’s band members and the father of one of the children who died during the 2012 shooting rampage.
In a statement to the press, McGraw said: ““Out of this tragedy a group was formed that made a promise to honor the lives lost and turn it into a moment of transformation. Sandy Hook Promise teaches that we can do something to protect our children from gun violence. I want to be a part of that promise – as a father and as a friend.”
There are conservatives who are outraged that a country singer, coming from a musical genre usually associated with traditional values would perform at a concert they consider anti-gun.
On the opposite end of the gun control debate is Ted Nugent, another example of a musician using the power of the performance stage to express his views, only this time in favor of gun ownership and the NRA.
At the National Rifle Association’s annual convention, which included appearances by several Republican presidential candidates, Nugent called Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid a “lying prick” and said, if the opportunity arose, he’d “shoot him.” How does this make you feel if you’re a Democrat and anti-gun advocate, but you just happen to like Nugent’s music?
Now, let’s look at former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. During the campaign in 2012, it came out that in 1983, Seamus, the Romney’s Irish setter got sick while spending 12 hours riding on the roof of the station wagon they were traveling in for a family vacation. Late-night host David Letterman spoke about Seamus frequently, “Dogs Aren’t Luggage” T-shirts were sold, and Facebook groups like “Dogs Against Romney” protested outside the Westminster dog show.
Remember the Akron, Ohio group “Devo”?
They had a song called ‘Whip It’ that peaked at #14 in the fall of 1980? Band members were knows to wear some “creative” costumes, like the yellow jumpsuits and flower pot hats.
In the summer of 2012, the band released a single called “Don’t Roof Rack Me, Bro (Seamus Unleashed)“, dedicated to Romney’s former pet dog Seamus.
Was Devo making a political statement to discredit Romney during the election or simply taking advantage of the story to get some publicity?
It’s been said that the impetus for forming Devo followed the Kent State Shootings on May 4, 1970 when four unarmed college students were killed and nine others wounded by the Ohio National Guard during a protest of the Cambodian Campaign, announced by President Richard Nixon during a television address four days earlier.
In reaction to the Kent State shootings, Neil Young composed the song “Ohio” which was recorded and performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in the summer of 1970.
Speaking of Nixon…
On December 21, 1970, Elvis Presley met with President Richard M. Nixon at the White House to request a special badge.
Elvis had a collection of police badges, and decided that he wanted one from the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
According to Priscilla Presley in her memoir, Elvis and Me, “with the federal narcotics badge, he [believed he] could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished.”
The meeting was captured with the photograph, Elvis and President Nixon. It became one of the most requested photographs in the National Archives history. It’s now available at the Archives gift shop in the form of T-shirts, coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets and snow globes.
If you happened to be an anti-war protester and didn’t care for President Nixon in 1970, but were a big fan of Elvis, did this photograph have any impact on your viewpoint? Did the appearance of Elvis with the president make Nixon a little more acceptable? Did you feel betrayed by Presley’s (presumed) acceptance of Nixon, or didn’t it matter to you?
With the presidential election coming up next year, we’ll see an increasing number of candidates teaming up with celebrities to reflect credibility by association. In today’s world of social media, image is everything!
Remember this gem from Bill Clinton on The Arsenio Hall Show in June 1992?