Neil Young ripped into Richard Nixon for his role in the Kent State massacre on CSNY’s 1970 protest classic “Ohio,” but a couple years after the he was forced to resign from office Young wrote another song with a more sympathetic take on the president. It’s unclear exactly when he wrote “Campaigner,” but he first played it at a Stills-Young Band show on July 20th, 1976. The 1976 Republican National Convention was just weeks away and politics were clearly on his mind.
“I am a lonely visitor,” Young sings. “I came to late to cause a stir/Though I campaigned all my life towards that goal/I hardly slept the night you wept/Our secret’s safe and still well kept/ Where even Richard Nixon has got soul.” Just months after leaving the White House in August of 1974, Richard Nixon was hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism that nearly killed him. “Hospitals have made him cry,” Young sings. “But there’s always a freeway in his eye/Though his beach just got too crowded for his stroll.”
The song re-appeared in Young’s live show on November 1st, 1976, the day before Jimmy Carter defeated incumbent president Gerald Ford. A studio version came out on his massive compilation album Decade the following year, which remains the only official release to this day. It wouldn’t pop up in concert until January of 1991, right as Congress was authorizing military force against Iraq. It came back the following year when the 1992 presidential election was heating up (this time it was Ronald Reagan who had soul), and during the occasional appearance in the 2000’s it was often George Bush with the soul. He hasn’t touched it since a show in Amsterdam in February of 2008, so we’ve yet to learn if Donald Trump has soul.