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Legend has it that during Ronald Reagan's first run for president, his wife, Nancy, suggested that using Bruce Springsteen's then-popular anthem "Born in the USA" as a campaign song might be one way to siphon off the youth vote. So Nancy arranged for a backstage visit after one of Springsteen's shows. As they were waiting to meet him, Nancy realized Ronnie might not be as prepped as he should be, so she turned to him and asked, "Ronnie, do you know who 'The Boss' is?" Reagan replied, "Why, you're the boss, Mommy!"
OK, we made up that last part, but the idea of using pop songs as campaign themes still makes sense. Ever since Bill Clinton famously commissioned Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" for his presidential bid, various candidates have dabbled with repurposing pop songs as a way to bait the Baby Boomers.
With such clear choices this year, it seems fitting that the current presidential contenders might also appropriate music to help define their political personas. And being music mavens ourselves, we here at New Times are only too happy to help.
For Obama, "Changes" by David Bowie seems perfect. Hell, that's all we hear the guy talk about — change you can believe in, change is needed, change for the vending machine... whatever. Instead, he's tapped Aretha Franklin's "Think," which, with its ominous warning, "Think about what you're trying to do to me," might give the impression he wasn't really ready to run after all. On the other hand, for all those who thought they'd never see an African-American run for president, Blondie's "Dreaming" might prove inspirational. Granted, some people are saying they don't know all that much about him, so asking the Eagles for permission to use "New Kid in Town" could be a good idea. That is, unless Sarah Palin claims it first. We hear she's leaning toward Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman," with its line "Hear me roar." But if she doesn't change that standard stump speech of hers, it will morph into "I am woman, hear me bore."
John McCain's choices seem all too obvious. "Old Man" by Neil Young is a clear contender, although using John Hiatt's "Same Old Man" from his recent album of the same name would be one way to affirm he's a gruff, no-nonsense kinda guy. When he received Daddy Yankee's endorsement, he might have had the option of using Daddy's ditty "Gasolina" but probably backed off, fearing a backlash due to surging fuel costs. On the other hand, the Democrats' charge that he'd give us four more years of Bush might make the Four Tops' "Same Old Song" more relevant. That allegation clearly pisses the guy off, so to curb his raging crankiness, the Republicans could slip the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" into the mix. He could also emphasize the fact that this isn't his first election — or even his first presidential bid — which gives cause to borrow the Boss' "Born to Run."
Still, given the country's financial crisis, the best bet for both candidates might be any song that deals with dollars. Take "Money" by Pink Floyd; it not only reflects the cash crunch but it also purveys a psychedelic scenario. And judging from the way things are going in this country, there's not all that much difference between what's real and surreal anyway.