Music + Politics: The Nine Most Bizarre Moments

To the casual observer, the Democratic primary campaign appears a tad flaccid in comparison to the hilarity of the Republican race. That said, things have started getting a little more interesting on the left side of things as Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign picks up steam. The Vermont senator’s progressive grass-roots campaign is beginning to blossom into something bigger.

To get a taste of Bernie fever and to check out some choice South Florida music outfits, it’s worth heading over to Lake Worth’s “Bands for Bernie” event at Propaganda on Sunday night. A delectable smorgasbord of local talent is taking part in the fundraiser for the candidate. In preparation for all this, let’s take a look at other musicians who have lent their verbal backing for a potential leader of the free world or a pissed-off political movement. Some might surprise you.

James Brown Endorses Richard Nixon

The Godfather of Soul was an open Nixon supporter. He even stated in an interview that some of the things Nixon had done were “very close to my heart, as a black man.” However, footage in last year’s stellar HBO doc on Brown, Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown, revealed that the love wasn’t mutual. Nixon is heard on audiotapes saying: "No more black stuff... No more blacks from now on; just don't bring them in here. James Brown apparently is very popular amongst young people; he is black. Well, what am I supposed to do, just sit and talk to him or what?" Sick.

50 Cent Would Have Voted for George W. Bush, but ...
At his commercial peak a decade ago, “Fiddy” was one of the few from the rap world to support then-President George W. Bush. In 2005, he told GQ magazine that he thought the president was “incredible” and that he would vote for Bush if his felony conviction didn’t prevent him from doing so. “I wanna meet George Bush, just shake his hand and tell him how much of me I see in him.” 

Moe Tucker Joins the Tea Party?
Moe Tucker’s pounding percussion provided much of the drive behind iconic NYC band the Velvet Underground at their rockiest. However, in 2010 she was beating an entirely different drum when she was seen attending rallies of the angriest fringe of American conservatism, the Tea Party. Tucker later clarified her position to Riverfront Times, stating, “I am not oblivious to the plight of the poor, but I don't see any reason/sense to the idea that everyone has to have everything, especially when the economy is so bad. I see that philosophy as merely a ploy to control.”

Ross Perot Snubs Willie
During the 1992 presidential campaign, Willie Nelson supported the populist third-party candidacy of billionaire Ross Perot. However, Perot was not so grateful. One of his campaign chiefs later recalled that when told that Nelson would take part in a campaign event, Perot responded: ”He’s a dope smoker and doesn’t pay his taxes. I don’t want him here.”

Johnny Ramone: Reagan's Punk
Being a vocal conservative in the ’70s NYC punk movement is like being lactose-intolerant in Wisconsin. However, the late, great Johnny Ramone eschewed the scene’s political leanings and was a rebel within a rebel movement. A lifelong Republican, Johnny was known to praise Richard Nixon and Rush Limbaugh and once told the Washington Times that Ronald Reagan was the greatest president of his lifetime. 

Frank Sinatra Gets John F. Kennedy Elected?
When you got Old Blues Eyes on your team, you got a whole lot more than hearty handclaps at political rallies. According to Sinatra’s daughter, Tina, her dad was recruited for the Kennedy’s 1960 campaign by the future president’s father, Joe. Tina alleged that Joe Kennedy wanted to use Frank’s Mob connections, particular his ties to Chicago boss Sam Giancana, to deliver the union vote to the Democrats. Kennedy went on to beat Republican rival Richard Nixon by the slimmest of margins.

Barry Manilow Is Not Voting for Ron Paul
A crooner who is slushier than arctic ice, Barry Manilow turned heads for ten minutes in 2011 when he appeared to endorse candidate Ron Paul for the Republican nomination. Manilow told the Daily Caller that he agreed with “just about everything” Paul had to say, naming him a “solid” contender for leader of the free world. However, before anyone had a chance to burn their copy of “Mandy,” Manilow sent a letter to the Washington Post clarifying that he was not voting for Paul. 

The Clintons Won't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow
Perhaps the most successful and blatant musical backing to a presidential campaign was when Fleetwood Mac re-formed to play their hit “Don’t Stop” at his inauguration gala in early 1993. The song had been used throughout the Clinton campaign as a positive anthem for an end to 14 years of Republican rule and as a clever ploy to appeal to baby boomers. Aides at the time apparently wanted something hipper from the current charts that might appeal to the kids. Had Clinton not stuck to his guns, he might have been stuck with an Ugly Kid Joe song instead.
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Steve Brennan