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How Campaigns Make Their Music Choices

October 24, 2008 3:07 PM ET

Ever question the motive behind a candidate's song selection at campaign rallies? Contrary to popular belief, Republicans aren't intentionally trying to piss off every rock group with their use of music without permission; there is a method to the selection process. "They want a really uplifting song that seems full of promise, even if it's not patriotic," RS associate editor Andy Greene says. Take for example Joe Biden's use of U2's "Beautiful Day." Songs are also selected by expected demographics of the rally's audience. A visit to a college campus might cue popular rock songs, the Midwest rallies pump country music from their speakers, the baby boomers hear classic rock, etc. In the case of Sarah Palin walking out to Shania Twain's "She's Not Just a Pretty Face," "It's pretty obvious they want to counter the perception she's just a beauty queen," says Greene. Candidates often avoid the use of any possibly incendiary songs, thus Team Obama has played no rap music despite the campaign having the unanimous support of the hip-hop community. Still, one Georgetown professor predicts rap will make its way onto the campaign trail within 20 years. And unless you think John McCain is sitting around listening to modern rock radio stations, don't blame him for his campaign's use of the Foo Fighters' "My Hero" — it's usually the campaign staffers that soundtrack the rallies.

Related Stories:
"Stop Using My Song, Republicans!": A Guide to Disgruntled Rockers
Foo Fighters Slam McCain For Using "My Hero"
Brooks & Dunn Comment on Obama's Use Of "Only In America"

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

More Song Stories entries »
 
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