Complete Guide to the 2016 Candidates' Favorite Music

From Hillary Clinton and Selena Gomez to Marco Rubio and N.W.A, here are the candidates' favorite musicians

Hillary Clinton has said she likes Loretta Lynn, Lana Del Rey and Lady Gaga. Credit: Lisa Lake/Getty

There was a time when it was adventurous for a U.S. president to like George Gershwin, as Harry Truman did when he wanted a break from his usual favorites, Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin. Those days are long gone: The current crop of Democratic and Republican presidential candidates like everything from 2pac's "California Love" to Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" to Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

But how deep do they go when it comes to being music fans? Rolling Stone reached out to all the major candidates, conducting new interviews, examining rally playlists and digging deep into their musical history to find out. Some of what we discovered was predictable (Ted Cruz claims he "didn't like how rock music responded" to the 9/11 attacks and turned to country), and some of it was surprising (Mike Huckabee will talk your ear off about Grand Funk Railroad).

But all this information is of the utmost importance to the country, with potential ramifications for inaugruation talent bookings, Kennedy Center Honors, White House gigs, and much more. So read closely, voters!

Hillary Clinton

Musical History
Like most in her generation, Clinton grew up with classic rock: "The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, the Who and the Doors," she said recently, "all of that, plus I like classical music because I find it relaxing when I'm thinking about stressful things." During college, she was dancing to Elvis and Supremes songs.

Favorites
Clinton has praised female acts from Loretta Lynn to Selena Gomez, Lana Del Rey and Lady Gaga. In a recent essay for Billboard's Women in Music issue, Clinton wrote that these women are "the best at what they do, whether that's fronting a raucous soul band, writing hypnotic dance anthems, unspooling intricate rap lyrics about female empowerment or crooning ballads about heartbreak and young love." Clinton also recently gave props to Beyoncé. "You see her on TV, it's impressive. You see her in person, you're just stunned, thinking like, 'How does she do that?' Really. I mean, she sings, she's up, she's down. It's just amazing. I want to be as good a president as Beyoncé is a performer."

Rock-the-Vote Moment
At her campaign stops, Clinton's camp plays the same lineup of 13 songs: Latin pop (Jennifer Lopez's "Let's Get Loud," Marc Anthony's "Vivir Mi Vida"), pop (Katy Perry's "Roar," Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger," Sara Bareilles' "Brave"), fist-pumping modern rock (American Authors' "Best Day of My Life" and "Believer," Gym Class Heroes' "The Fighter"). If the list sounds focus-grouped, it may have been: Clinton's campaign paid $90,000 to a consulting firm in Portland, Oregon, to help compile the list. [Update: A rep from Clinton's campaign says they pick the music for the rallies themselves but paid a Portland consulting firm $9,000 to use music from the agency's library for Clinton's web videos.]

Donald Trump

Musical History
In Michael D'Antonio's recent bio Never Enough, Trump claimed he gave a music teacher a black eye in second grade, saying, "I didn't think she knew anything about music."

Favorites
Trump has name-checked Aerosmith, Elton John, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson in the past, though he seems to think they're "terrific" as much for their personalities as their tunes. His tastes undoubtedly run right down the middle of classic rock; according to aides, Trump programs his own campaign rally playlists, which include songs such as the Stone's "Brown Sugar." His go-to campaign song, though, has been Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It," which he rocks at the end of his rallies.

Rock-the-Vote Moment
Trump was spotted at a 2006 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert in New York, where he was seen talking with fellow concert attendee Salman Rushdie. Afterward, he told Rolling Stone of Young, "He's got something very special. I've listened to his music for years and I've seen him before that, but I went to the concert where they were honoring Bob Dylan years ago at Madison Square Garden and Neil got up and totally brought the house down. There was nobody close. He's performed for me at my casinos over the years and he just brings it down. I've met him on occasions and he's a terrific guy. … His voice is perfect and haunting. He's 63 and I don't think it's changed." He noted he liked "the older stuff better" when it came to Young. Recently, though, Young demanded that Trump stop using "Rockin' in the Free World" at rallies, and Trump has called Young a "hypocrite" based on a meeting they had about Young's Pono music player.

Ben Carson

Musical History
Unsurprisingly for someone who grew up in Detroit in the Sixties, Carson gives props to Motown. "It's pretty hard to grow up in Motown without developing an affinity for the Motown sound – in particular the baritone saxophone that was a Motown hallmark," he tells Rolling Stone. On cornet and then baritone horn, Carson performed in both the jazz and classical ensembles in high school, playing Motown hits like "Get Ready," and he instantly names the Four Tops as his preferred Motown group.

Favorites
Carson likes classical music, especially Baroque composers like Bach, Handel and Vivaldi. (While playing classical music during surgical procedures, Carson would quiz his team on the names of composers, which still makes him chuckle.) Asked to name his favorite songs, Carson cites Roy Clark's 1969 country crossover ballad hit "Yesterday When I Was Young" — "the melody and harmonies and chord progression are beautiful." But the song that touches him the most? "MacArthur Park," especially the original version talk-sung by actor Richard Harris. "It's a long song, like seven minutes long. And a lot of the words don't make a lot of sense: 'MacArthur's Park is melting in the dark.' What the devil is he talking about? It has three different parts and part two — 'I will drink the wine while it is warm and never let you catch me looking at the sun' — is just beatiful music. Again, the words don't make a lot of sense."

Rock-the-Vote Moment
Carson has a fondness for rock with classical overtones, especially the Moody Blues' symphonic-rock landmark Days of Future Passed. He tells Rolling Stone, "I loved the way they merged the rock and roll music with classical music. 'Evening,' 'Tuesday Afternoon' — I like almost the whole album, really." Asked whether he admires other bands that integrated classical, like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, he says, "I kinda liked it all." Another unlikely fave from his teen years: Gloria Gaynor's disco anthem "I Will Survive." Says Carson, "You listen to the expended version, and the instrumental interlude is just fabulous – the trumpets. Just a well-done piece of music."

Bernie Sanders

Musical History
In 1987, when he was still mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Sanders recorded an album, the cassette-only We Shall Overcome: one side of covers of folk anthems like "This Land Is Your Land" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and another side devoted to "A Conversation With Bernie Sanders." Sanders' half-barking style of singing wasn't terribly musical: "As talented of a guy as he is, he has absolutely not one musical bone in his body, and that became painfully obvious from the get-go," producer Todd Lockwood told Seven Days, the Vermont alt-weekly. "This is a guy who couldn't even tap his foot to music coming over the radio. No sense of melody. No sense of rhythm – the rhythm part surprised me, because he has good rhythm when he's delivering a speech in public."

Favorites
Last year, Sanders told Rolling Stone he favors classical music: "On my iPad, I have all of Beethoven's symphonies," he said. In terms of pop, he championed "the Motown sound," especially the Supremes and Temptations. Sanders confessed he loves Abba and disco (especially the Bee Gees), and Celine Dion. On The Ellen DeGeneres Show last fall, he danced (a bit) to the Trammps' "Disco Inferno." Sanders' camp used a minute of Simon & Garfunkel's "America" in its Iowa caucus ads.

Rock-the-Vote Moment
Jam-band fans should know that We Shall Overcome was recorded at the same studio where Phish cut 1992's A Picture of Nectar. Sanders also sang with Vampire Weekend at a recent campaign event in Iowa.

Chris Christie

Musical History
Growing up in Jersey in the Sixties, Christie says his first 45 single may have been Edwin Starr's "War": "I can remember my parents coming across the hall and just going, 'Turn it down, turn it down,'" he tells Rolling Stone. "We would be playing that stuff really loud." But nothing compared to the night in December 1975 when older friends took him to see Springsteen at New Jersey's Seton Hall University. "I heard 'Rosalita' before that, and then I got invited to go to this thing and said, 'Why not?' It was hot and sweaty and he was just the most exciting guy I had ever seen on stage. I was hooked after that."

Favorites
With Christie, it's all about Springsteen, even if his hero doesn't always agree with him politically. "We have our political disagreements, and I'm sure I'm not his cup of tea politically on some issues," he says. "I learned a long time ago to separate the political stuff Bruce will say on stage or in interviews that I disagree with, and my affection for his music and my affection for him as an artist. It's never affected my desire to go in my car and turn on his stuff." His go-to Bruce album remains Born to Run: "It spoke to who I was and where I was from. If you listen, obviously, to some of the songs on Born to Run, there are many New Jersey-type references." "Thunder Road" remains his preferred Springsteen tune: "It has all of the things that make Bruce's music great. It's got a great melody, really good lyrics. It was the perfect song to open Born to Run because it sounded like a welcoming. The music sounded like it was an invitation into this experience."

Runners-up in the Springsteen album category are Darkness on the Edge of Town ("written after a really ugly period of fighting with his manager and not being able to record and all the rest, and so you hear that anger and that angst reflected in the songs") and Magic, which Christie calls "a relatively underrated album." "'Girls in Their Summer Clothes' is a fun, great summer song,' and 'Radio Nowhere' is a lot of fun," he says. "There's some clunkers on there, like 'Gypsy Biker.' I'm not thrilled with 'Devil's Arcade.' But 'Long Walk Home' is classic Springsteen. Talking about everything being related to where you're from and who you are." Least favorite Bruce album: The Ghost of Tom Joad, which he calls "music to hang yourself by."

Non-Bruce Favorites
Unsurprisingly for an East Coast guy, Christie has a special love for Billy Joel: "The same guy who wrote 'Captain Jack' wrote 'You're My Home.' The same guy who writes something like 'Uptown Girl' also wrote 'Honesty.' He has great range. He has got this group of songs on Glass Houses — 'All for Leyna,' "Sometimes a Fantasy' and 'Sleeping with the Television On' — with similar themes of him being obsessive about a woman. Very fun." Christie also cherishes Bryan Adams ("you forget how many hits that guy had") and Talking Heads ("'And She Was' and 'Wild Wild Life,' we listened to those in high school and early parts of college – have a couple of beers and start dancing"). His favorite current album is Bruno Mars' Doo-Wops & Hooligans: "Whether you're talking about 'Grenade' or 'Runaway Baby,' it's great stuff. Then he can do something like 'The Other Side' with Cee Lo. That's one where you just get in the car and if you're looking for a good time you can throw that on."

Rock-the-Vote Moment, Guilty Pleasure Division
No, not John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. Instead, he geeks out on Seventies R&B love man Barry White ("He was such a character. It was so out there with the lyrics and the Love Unlimited Orchestra, and it just makes me laugh") and Backstreet Boys: "I love listening to 'I Want It That Way' and 'Everybody.' There's something about the Backstreet stuff. But no NSYNC."

Jeb Bush

Musical History
In his recent book Reply All, Bush acknowledged he had piano lessons as a kid. "It was tough and I didn't enjoy it," he wrote. "In fact, I wasn't that good at it. But you know what? It gave me discipline which helped me as an adult. So my advice is to be obedient to your mom."

Favorites
He's cited Stevie Wonder and Al Green, but is said to lean toward country, which explains why the Zack Brown Band's "Homegrown" is a Bush-rally regular. Other songs blasted at Bush events have included Journey's "Wheel in the Sky," Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Still Unbroken," Eddie Money's "Two Tickets to Paradise" and Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion." His son, Jeb Jr., has also said there was "a lot of salsa, a lot of Luis Miguel" in their home thanks to Bush's Mexican-born wife Columba.

Rock-the-Vote Moment
Bush held a fundraising event for Republican state senate candidates last year at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Tennessee. The museum documents the saga of the Bristol Sessions, the 1927 recording dates with Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family that helped spread the word on country. The museum also includes exhibits or recordings by Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris.

John Kasich

Musical History
Like many his age (63), Kasich grew up with classic rock like Pink Floyd and AC/DC ("Thunderstruck" was played at least one Kasich event). At a 1991 Grateful Dead show in D.C., Kasich, then a member of the House, was given a backstage pass by opening act Dwight Yoakam, which Kasich tried to use to watch the Dead as well. When the Dead's crew prevented him from getting anywhere near Garcia and the band, some sort of shouting match occurred; Kasich has said it was because he was talking loud because of the loudness of the music.

Favorites
He's said "the single greatest concert I've ever seen" was Roger Waters' The Wall tour, and he's joked (or not) that he'd hire Pink Floyd to play at his inauguration. He's also sung the praises of what he calls "alternative music," including Pearl Jam and Linkin Park ("they're really good and I like those guys," he says of the latter), along with Bastille's recent "Pompeii."

Rock-the-Vote Moment
Kasich's prog-loving side erupts not only in his Floyd love but the way in 2011 he asked the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame why Rush wasn't in the Hall. When they finally made the ballot a few years later, he tweeted, "So happy for those guys." Kasich is also clearly a fan of the album format: "The problem today," he's said, "[is] you can like a lot of the music [but] most of them do not produce complete great albums. One of the last great albums was Green Day. But you don't have a whole album full of one hit after another."

Marco Rubio

Musical History
In the sixth grade in the mid-Eighties, Rubio discovered acts like Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, to the irritation of his Van Halen-loving friends. Rubio's three most beloved hip-hop tracks are N.W.A's "Straight Outta Compton," 2pac and the Outlawz' "Killuminati" and Eminem's "Lose Yourself."

Favorites
2Pac also made Rubio's favorite album, All Eyez on Me. "He went over to the West Coast and went to Death Row Records and they produced one of the greatest rap albums ever, where it had 'California [Love]' and all these other songs," he's said. That era remains his favorite: "Maybe I'm getting old. I still love it. Especially the stuff that came out of the West Coast and California in the Nineties, when Dre and, you know, then Tupac went West Coast and abandoned the East Coast. That was a good time…. I don't think they should have shot each other and had a dispute that way, but I was a West Coast fan." Lately Rubio has also lauded Drake and the Weeknd for the way they blend disparate genres.

Rock-the-Vote Moment
In July, Rubio tweeted, "clear two hours of my schedule on Aug 14. Gotta see Straight Outta Compton." In another tweet, Rubio defended fellow Floridian Pitbull: "Makes party music not message music. Always been place for that in hip hop."

Carly Fiorina  

Musical History
At the urging of her parents, Fiorina studied piano as a child. "I soon found that learning the music and perfecting my playing could completely absorb me," she wrote later. "I would practice for hours on end.… I also came to find in music something beautiful that spoke to my own fears, self doubts and nightmares." She also praised Mozart as "angelic and otherworldly in its beauty.… I could hear angst and fear in Beethoven. His music was sublime, and ultimately triumphant in its suffering and humanity." Eventually, though, Fiorina perished any thought of becoming a pro musician: "Over time I learned that although I love the music, I could not live with the isolation that came along with it. And who knows whether I really had the talent anyway?"

Favorites
Fiorina gravitates toward the peaceful-easy-feeling side of Seventies and Eighties rock, citing the Eagles, Hall & Oates, the Doobie Brothers, Traffic and Steve Winwood solo. Among her favorite songs, she tells Rolling Stone, are the Doobies' "China Grove" and "Listen to the Music" and Van Morrison's "Domino" and "Moondance." Fiorina says she listens to Morrison in particular to get "lifted up."

Rock-the-Vote Moment
"Carly's granddaughters are big fans of anything by Taylor Swift," says a Fiorina spokesperson, "so she enjoys listening to Taylor's songs with them."

Martin O'Malley

Musical History
Handling guitar and banjo, O'Malley played in a folk band, Shannon Tide, in high school in D.C.: "We weren't very good but by golly we hit the supply-and-demand curve, since there were about seven Irish bars that wanted music," he tells Rolling Stone. "I would get paid to play in the band in a bar. Not many kids in high school get that." Also in high school, O'Malley earned cred points by picking up U2's War: "Yes, the one with 'The Refugee' and 'Sunday Bloody Sunday.' My high school friend used to mock me for being so square to play folk music. But I wasn't so square when I bought that one." In 1998, O'Malley formed O'Malley's March, an Irish folk-rock band that released four indie albums and opened for the Pogues in 2001, when O'Malley was mayor of Baltimore. "We were the warm-up act," he says. "Everybody can deal with five or six songs." The Neville Brothers performed at O'Malley's mayoral inauguration in 1999; Kool and the Gang and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy played at his inauguration once when he was elected governor of Maryland in 2007.

Favorites
O'Malley grew up on the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem's 1963 wool-sweaters-and-harmonies classic In Person at Carnegie Hall ("I remember practically wearing out the vinyl on that one"), but his desert-island disc is Springsteen's Born to Run. "My older sister Eileen was big into Springsteen, so she probably left the album to me. The guy's like the poet laureate of the American dream. He has that empathy for the underdog, the sort of blue-collar work ethic. There's the pain of the violence that goes on almost anonymously in the heart of American cities in 'Jungleland' and the ability to make our own future of 'Born to Run.'" He also cites The Seeger Sessions: "It was a lot of the songs I first heard as a little kid on folk albums. I'm guessing perhaps he was hearing them in his house as well." His Irish upbringing also made him a Pogues fan, especially If I Should Fall from Grace With God: "In 'Thousands Are Sailing,' there's also empathy for the underdog, not like Springsteen." He also loves soundtrack scores by Hans Zimmer: "Especially the battle scene from The Gladiator. That puts you in a good frame of mind, in the day prep."

Rock-the-Vote Moment
On The View last year, O'Malley sang and strummed Taylor's Swift's "Bad Blood." "What did Rolling Stone call it? A 'punk music war crime'? [Actually, it was "pop culture war crime."] I can't disagree. My staff made me lower the key. If I'd only I'd done it in the key I'd practiced, it'd have been a little bit better." O'Malley has also been known to break into song at campaign events, and around Baltimore.

Mike Huckabee

Musical History
After seeing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, young Huckabee begged his parents for a guitar, eventually switching to bass, which he plays in his band, Capitol Offense. As a teenager in the late Sixties and early Seventies, he gravitated toward the Beatles, the Who and Hendrix. Tommy in particular blew his mind. "The fact that this entire album unfolded a narrative was so groundbreaking," he tells Rolling Stone. "Tommy was woven together so beautifully: none of the songs were just unlistenable, because it was part of that continuity that made it all work. Here was this guy who was disconnected from the world, and he had this rapid rise into almost being a messiah-like figure, but it was not real, and it all came crashing down on him. I thought, 'That's kind of the story of a lot of people who have a sudden rise in stardom, and then it all falls apart.' When you're 15 or 16, a simple story can be pretty solid."

With Capitol Offense, Huckabee has covered "Sweet Home Alabama," "Louie Louie" and other classics. But his one-time performance of Boston's "More Than a Feeling" didn't thrill Tom Scholz, who publicly complained. Says Huckabee, "I didn't care what he thought. We only played it one time, and there was this allegation that we were playing it all over events, which was nonsense. And the reason we did it was because Barry Goudreau, who played with Boston as lead guitar player for a good bit of time, was a guest artist and played with our band, so of course we played with the song. It was really kind of stupid of [Scholz] to complain. If he doesn't want to get the royalties, then take his song off the market."

Favorites
Abbey Road is his go-to Beatles album. ("Some of the songs have more orchestration, and a little bit deeper sense of the use of minor chords on some of the songs. 'Come Together' has a great bass line, obviously, so that was one that talked to me.") Discussing one of his other favorite records, Grand Funk's 1970 Live Album, Huckabee taps into his inner Homer Simpson in the 1996 "Homerpalooza" episode: "They were just unbelievable live, and the live album just captured all the energy of a rock concert. In the original days of Grand Funk, there were only three of them, and they had to make enough music out of the three of them to carry the whole thing. Mel Schacher is one of the truly underestimated bass players. Mark Farner's a guitar genius. And Don Brewer was a great drummer. It was just an electric combination."

That era remains his favorite: "The Eighties is kind of a lost decade for me, musically. That's when music went to hell, and here's why. From the Eighties on, pop music became just that: ear candy, it was no longer about musicians having a unique, very empowering kind of signature sound. It was so heavily produced and engineered that the artists were secondary to the engineering. The track that goes underneath is very repetitive. There's nothing in particular that's unique about the music of it. It's a catchy rhythm. It's like musical soda pop, and I just don't get it."

Rock-the-Vote Moment
Talking about certain acts, Huckabee instantly turns gear-head. "The first time I heard 'Purple Haze,' I was just completely mesmerized," he says. "Hendrix was doing things with his guitar that today requires three foot pedals to get done. And he had a fuzz box, and that's it. Everything else was done by his control of feedback, and he had this ability to just burn his amp up to get that very muddy sound otherwise you never could get. You just sit there in awe that this is one human being making those sounds, and it's not a bunch of engineers in the studio overdubbing it 10 times." Huckabee also recently obsessed over the B3 organ and bought a bunch of classic-rock standards featuring that instrument, including Arthur Brown's "Fire" and Deep Purple's "Hush." "It's the most unmatched musical instrument ever," he says. "Think about Procol Harum's 'White Shade of Pale' without that B3."