On Tuesday afternoon, Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk whose imprisonment for not granting same-sex marriage licenses became a cause célèbre for the right, was released amid fanfare and a glowing introduction by Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee.
“I thought before we left today, maybe you would like to personally express your thanks to the person who has the courage to cause a lot of people to start standing up,” Huckabee told a crowd outside the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Kentucky. “A person whose courage exceeds that of 99 9/10th percent of the politicians in this country.”
As Davis, her husband and attorney strode upon the stage to lock hands, Survivor’s ubiquitous 1982 hit “Eye of the Tiger” blasted in the background – musical shorthand for anyone who’s “defied the odds” and struggled as the underdog.
While Davis’ supporters applauded the clerk, Frankie Sullivan, the song’s co-writer, tells Rolling Stone that neither he nor the band authorized or endorsed Huckabee’s use of the song.
“I do not like mixing rock and roll with politics; they do not go hand in hand,” Sullivan says. “What upset me most was that, once again, my song was being used to further a political agenda – and no one even bothered to ask for permission.”
Sullivan’s been down this road before. In 2012, the musician sued then-presidential candidate Newt Gingrich for using “Eye of the Tiger” as his entrance music at campaign rallies. At the time, Gingrich argued that he was protected under a general ASCAP license, though a lawsuit would have clarified the murky uncertainties endemic to the rules of regulation of music in political campaigns. Sullivan ended up settling with Gingrich under undisclosed terms.
While Sullivan has not decided whether to take legal action against the Huckabee campaign, he tells Rolling Stone the issue is as much personal as it is political.
“I do not agree with Kim Davis’ stance and do not believe in denying gay rights and the freedom for all individuals to choose the lifestyle they want to live,” Sullivan says. “Our Constitution, and the words of our Founding Fathers, stand tall for freedom, which is what America is all about. I find it ridiculous in this day and age that this fight against gay marriage has gone on, even after the Supreme Court’s ruling. Let’s stop!”
This is hardly the only fight between musicians and politicians this election. In June, Republican frontrunner (and Rolling Stone cover star) Donald Trump used Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” to kick off his presidential campaign, sparking condemnation from the musician.
“Donald Trump was not authorized to use ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ in his presidential candidacy announcement,” a spokesperson for the rocker’s Lookout Management said at the time. “Neil Young, a Canadian citizen, is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for President of the United States of America.” The Trump campaign told Rolling Stone that they would stop using Young’s music in the future.