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GOP's Use of "Right Now" Leads to Sammy Hagar-Eddie Van Halen Phone Tag

September 12, 2008 3:41 PM ET

Days before Heart served the GOP campaign with a cease-and-desist letter for playing their 1977 hit "Barracuda" to introduce VP pick Sarah Palin (high school alias: "Sarah Barracuda") at the August 31st Republican convention, Van Halen sounded off against McCain and Co. for blasting their tune "Right Now" at a rally in Dayton, Ohio. "Permission was not sought or granted nor would it have been given [to use the song]," Alex and Eddie Van Halen said in a statement. But not every VH member agreed.

"I got goosebumps from it — my fur went up," says the band's ex-frontman, Sammy Hagar, who co-wrote and sang the song — and said he'd be "just as happy" if Obama played it. "I was honored that a potential president of the United States used those words in a positive sense, like, 'We gotta act now!' "

Hagar, who's tight-lipped on his presidential endorsement ("I vote for the man, not the party," he says) heard that McCain used the tune via a deluge of phone calls. "I got calls from relatives, friends, doctors, lawyers... everyone thought it was so cool," he says. "Then I started getting excited. Those words are an old Zen philosophy — it's totally cool that they're timeless." Even former bandmate Eddie rang Hagar up.

"I got a message on my cell phone and it was Eddie's voice," Hagar recalls. "He goes, 'Sam? This don't sound like you. I got the wrong number.' And he hangs up! So I hit redial. He didn't answer, but I left a message: 'Ed, it's me. If you would like to talk about the 'Right Now' situation I'd love to speak to you about it.' "

The two never connected, which raises some lingering questions. "Why didn't [Van Halen] say no when Pepsi Cola gave us a million dollars to use the song in a Pepsi Light commercial?" asks Hagar. "That's when you say no. That isn't the message of this song." But when a potential future president is using it to bring a message to the world, he says, "I'm going, 'Hell, yes!'"

Related Stories:
Heart Lashes Out at McCain Campaign's Use of "Barracuda"
Rage Against the Machine Ask Fans to Fight "Republican Fascist Agenda" at RNC Show
Roseanne Cash Says Father Johnny Would Not Have Supported McCain

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Song Stories

“Love Is the Answer”

Utopia | 1977

The message of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" proved to be a universal and long-lasting one, which Utopia revisited 10 years later on this ballad. "From a lyrical standpoint, it's part of a whole class of songs that I write, which are about filial love," Todd Rundgren explained. "I'm not a Christian, but it's called Christian love, the love that people are supposed to naturally feel because we are all of the same species. That may be mythical, but it's still a subject." Though "Love Is the Answer" wasn't a hit, a cover version two years later by England Dan & John Ford Coley peaked at Number Ten on the Billboard singles chart.

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