On Tuesday, 2016 presidential candidate—and Neil Young fan—Donald Trump launched his campaign with Young’s hit song “Rockin’ in the Free World.”
Today, Young fired back with a statement about his opposition to Trump’s use of the song. Without naming Trump directly, Young noted that “a U.S. presidential candidate” used the song “without my permission.”
Young goes on to write, “Music is a universal language. So I am glad that so many people with varying beliefs get enjoyment from my music, even if they don't share my beliefs.
“But had I been asked to allow my music to be used for a candidate—I would have said no.
“I am Canadian and I don't vote in the United States, but more importantly I don't like the current political system in the USA and some other countries.”
Initially, Young’s team had responded to Trump’s appropriation of the song by saying he was not authorized to use it. But Trump’s campaign said it “paid for and obtained the legal right” to use the song through ASCAP, the organization that licenses and collects royalties on behalf of artists.
Nevertheless, the campaign has said it will stop using Young’s song. “There are plenty of other songs to choose from,” said Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, “despite the fact that Mr. Trump is a big fan and likes Neil very much.”
Young, for his part, is a supporter of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.
“I choose to speak Truth to this Economic Power,” Young writes. “When I speak out on corporations hurting the common man or the environment or other species, I expect a well-financed disinformation campaign to be aimed my way.”
The Monsanto Years takes specific aim at the agrochemical company’s propagation of genetically modified foods. Monsanto has responded to the album by noting, “there is a lot of misinformation about who we are and what we do—and unfortunately several of those myths seem to be captured in these lyrics.”
Young’s full message follows:
MESSAGE FROM NEIL YOUNG
Yesterday my song "Rockin' in the Free World" was used in an announcement for a U.S. presidential candidate without my permission.
A picture of me with this candidate was also circulated in conjunction with this announcement but It was a photograph taken during a meeting when I was trying to raise funds for Pono, my online high resolution music service.
Music is a universal language. So I am glad that so many people with varying beliefs get enjoyment from my music, even if they don't share my beliefs.
But had I been asked to allow my music to be used for a candidate - I would have said no.
I am Canadian and I don't vote in the United States, but more importantly I don't like the current political system in the USA and some other countries. Increasingly Democracy has been hijacked by corporate interests. The money needed to run for office, the money spent on lobbying by special interests, the ever increasing economic disparity and the well-funded legislative decisions all favor corporate interests over the peoples.
The Citizens United Supreme Court ruling is proof of this corruption, as well as the proposed trade deals, which would further compromise our rights.
These Corporations were originally created to serve us but if we don't appropriately prioritize they will destroy us. Corporations don't have children. They don't have feelings or soul. They don't depend on uncontaminated water, clean air or healthy food to survive. They are beholden to one thing - the bottom line.
I choose to speak Truth to this Economic Power. When I speak out on corporations hurting the common man or the environment or other species, I expect a well-financed disinformation campaign to be aimed my way.
Such is the case with the reaction to my new album The Monsanto Years, which covers many of these issues. I support those bringing these issues to light and those who fight for their rights like Freedom of Choice.
But Freedom of Choice is meaningless without knowledge.
That's why it's crucial we all get engaged and get informed.
That's why GMO labeling matters. Mothers need to know what they are feeding their children. They need freedom to make educated choices at the market. When the people have voted for labeling, as they have in Vermont, they need our support when they are fighting these corporate interests trying to reverse the laws they have voted for and passed in the democratic process.
I do not trust self-serving misinformation coming from corporations and their media trolls. I do not trust politicians who are taking millions from those corporations either. I trust people. So I make my music for people not for candidates.
Keep on Rockin' in the Free World.
- Neil Young