Discussion: Pick a Candidate Theme Song

Brooks & Dunn’s “Only in America” has been used for both the re-election campaign of President Bush and the current campaign of Senator Obama.   That’s caused a bit of a stir, given the Republican leanings of Kix Brooks & Ronnie Dunn, but I think that Kix Brooks reacted perfectly.  Check out this piece from Chris Willman, the best country music writer this side of Jonathan Keefe:

I wrote about the partisan use of “Only in America” by the Republicans in a book I penned shortly after the 2004 election called Rednecks & Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music. Here’s how I described it then: “…Bush’s recorded intro and exit music — along with an occasional live rendition straight from the horsemen’s mouths — was Brooks & Dunn’s ‘Only in America,’ the unofficial Bush theme song. Funnily enough, that number was cowritten by a buddy of theirs, Don Cook, who went on to found a fledgling organization called Music Row Democrats. Having ‘Only in America’ drafted as the new ‘Hail to the Chief’ wasn’t really what Democratic activist Cook had in mind for his song (which isn’t even that gung-ho — listen closely, and there’s an ambivalence about the American dream to be found in the lyrics). But in Nashville, even of you’re on the other side of the aisle, sometimes it’s hard not to give at the office.”

I got Don Cook, the cowriter and Democratic stalwart, on the phone today to talk about the tune… and about how Brooks & Dunn themselves reacted to Obama’s use of it. Since Cook was a little taken aback when the GOP adopted it, does this feel like turnabout is fair play? “That’s exactly what Kix Brooks said to me when he called,” said Cook. “He said, ‘You had to endure George Bush using it, so it’s only fair that I would have to endure Barack Obama using it.’ But he said it in a real light-hearted way. For us as writers and them as performers, truthfully, we’re proud when anybody uses our song for something that’s substantial. Even if you’re diametrically opposed politically to the person who’s using your song, the fact that they like it well enough to use it at an important place in their life, you have to love that.” But not everybody necessarily feels the same way. Cook related to me a story about John Rich, the one country star who’s been a strong campaigner for John McCain already. “John Rich sent an angry text message to Kix last night, saying why did Kix allow that song to be used? And Kix said ‘I had nothing to do with it — that was their right.’ I sent John a text message today saying ‘If you enjoyed last night, you’re gonna love Kix’s version of ‘Ba-Rock My World, Little Country Girl’” (taking off on another Brooks & Dunn hit).

I think that music is a unifying thing.   When you’re singing along at a concert next to a complete stranger, for all you know that person holds completely opposing views to you, but you find common ground in your common groove.    In that spirit, I thought it would be fun to pick theme songs that represent the best qualities of each presidential candidate.

A caveat: If you can’t bring yourself to be less than snarky about a candidate you don’t support, then please don’t pick a theme song for them at all.  I’d like this to be a positive thread, so be forewarned: rude and insulting posts will be deleted, whether they’re aimed at a candidate or a commenter.

I don’t have a personal favorite, but I see good qualities in both men.   If you only see them in one, just pick a theme song for that gentleman.   Have fun!


  1. I’ve always thoughtthe Dixie Chicks’ “I Hope” would be the perfect song for Obama. I’ve never had a clear vision for a McCain theme song, but I’ll think about it.

    I agree that Brooks’ response was very classy. I also agree that while I have a personal favorite, both men certainly have good qualities.

  2. Leeann mentioned the Chicks’ “I Hope”, which is an extremely good choice for Obama. Another one I thought of for the Obama campaign is Elvis’ 1968 comeback smash “If I Can Dream”, because of its equally inspirational message:

  3. I actually had a bunch of songs down, but I narrowed it down to one for each (not being too literal of course):

    McCain: Destiny’s Child “Survivor” (How many times has his campaign risen from the ashes? “Eye of the Tiger” works too.)

    Obama: Bob Dylan “The Times They Are a Changin'”

    I agree that Brooks’ response was classy, but I also don’t blame other artists for being upset. I believe Springsteen had good reason to not want “Born in the USA” to be used as a campaign theme song. (btw. Heart is the latest ticked off band. They’re upset with McCain because his campaign is now playing their song “Barracuda” when Palin speaks.)

  4. Down From Dover wouldn’t be much of a theme song anyway. If one were going to pick a theme for Palin, I would go with ‘I Ain’t Goin’ Down’ from Shania Twain’s Up album. It seems to fit the situation more accurately than ‘Dover.

  5. … and that’s all I have to say on this subject. I am going with the old adage ‘if you can’t say something nice …’

  6. J.R., I prefer the Alice Roosevelt end to your adage. “If you can’t say something nice, come sit next to me.”

  7. Kevin (or whoever has his finger on the delete button) – thanks for deleting my posts. I promise to stay out of the CountryUniverse from now on.

  8. McCain-
    “Don’t Worry ‘Bout A Thing” (SHeDAISY)
    from what it seems like, he has made mistakes or had low points? so it kinda works?
    (I also agree with “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child)

    “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” (Shania Twain)
    seems to be every woman’s anthem and I thought since she might be the first woman VP it’d go good with the election :D
    “Everyday America” (Sugarland)
    she seems to be relatable to some americans so….
    “Is There Life Out There” (Reba)
    seems like a good one….

    “I Hope” (Dixie Chicks)
    “Love’s The Only House” (Martina McBride)
    Obama kinda represents a change for the better so I thought this song would be good.
    “For These Times” (McBride)
    go figure.

    “What The World Needs” (Wynonna)
    goes great, um with Obama/Biden campaign.
    “What If” (Reba McEntire)
    same as “WTWN”

    These Are my opinions, I don’t mean to offend any artists, fans, bloggers, etc.
    I hope you like em! :D
    (I don’t really know much about their backgrounds/etc.) :)

  9. Sound like good choices to me. I couldn’t put that many songs with those candidates myself. My brain just wasn’t up to it …

  10. I agree with “I Hope” for Obama, and for McCain, maybe something like “Everyday America” or “County Line” by Sugarland.

  11. Ok, umm, Obama… “Send a Boat” by Chris Knight “We’re All In This Thing Together” – Old Crow Medicine Show

    McCain… Mike Ethan Messick’s “American Steel” or Steve Earle’s “Johnny Come Lately” (the title is misleading — listen to it if you don’t know it)

    A little off topic, but hearing McCain’s name and state so many times this week made me go download Jamie O’Neals “There Is No Arizona.” What a great song.

    And for everyone else, there’s “I Could Never Be President” by Johnnie Taylor!

Comments are closed.