The Guardian: Musicians Are Supporting…

Sean Michaels
Tuesday February 5, 2008Guardian Unlimited
Today’s US news will be California this, New Jersey that, with John McCain high-fiving Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hillary Clinton beseeching Alabamians to give her campaign a second look. It’s Super Duper Tuesday, the day that 24 states (as well as American Samoa) head to polls and vote on their party’s candidate for November’s presidential election.As Hillary Clinton jockeys against Barack Obama, Mitt Romney against John McCain, we thought it a good time to summarise the issue that really matters: who do American musicians endorse?

On the Republican side… there are not very many famous activist musicians. Ted Nugent, he who once said “We should Nagasaki [Iraq]” has turned out in favour of conservative Mike Huckabee, while moderate John McCain will have Burt Bacharach tickling his ivories. Libertarian long-shot Ron Paul is backed by Krist Novoselic, formerly of Nirvana. Country-singer Pat Boone has loaned his septuagenarian twang to the campaign of Mitt Romney, who can also count on the help of fellow Mormons Donny and Marie Osmond.

Among Democrats there are several choirs to preach to. Lefty singer-songwriters flocked to Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards, but now that those candidates have dropped out it’s unclear where Ani DiFranco, John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson will head.

The real battle is obviously between Hillary Clinton, the meticulous former First Lady, and Barack Obama, the shiny and inspirational Illinois senator. True to form, Clinton’s got much of the establishment music biz in her corner: Madonna, Carly Simon, Tony Bennett, Jon Bon Jovi, Melissa Etheridge and Carole King have all endorsed or donated to the Clinton campaign. Obama is meanwhile the candidate of choice for the R&B and hip-hop community, counting Will Smith, Babyface, Macy Gray, Stevie Wonder, Ne-Yo and Usher among his supporters. (See yesterday’s story on a Obama video.)

But it’s not so cut and dry. Crooner Harry Connick Jr has broken for Obama, while Janet Jackson and Quincy Jones side with Clinton. Though Obama can count on the Grateful Dead, Clinton won the unlikely backing of one-time Bush fan 50 Cent, who told journalists that electing her “is a way for us to have Bill Clinton be president again, and he did a great job during his term”.

However one demographic has made its choice clear. American indie rock is firmly in Barack Obama’s camp. There was a time when (pro-Clinton) Elvis Costello could represent for the underground, but today he’s on the opposite side of the fence. Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst and Arcade Fire’s Win Butler have all stumped for the big O. Even Joanna Newsom, cousin to San Francisco mayor (and Clinton supporter) Gavin Newsom, is siding with the Illinois upstart. “He has a more liberal voting record, more progressive, than Kucinich even!” she pronounced at a concert. Ani DiFranco and Willie Nelson take note!

Although a Pew Research Center study last year found that celebrity endorsements have little impact on voter preferences, they remain a great vehicle for conceiving of musical collaborations. Want to see Will Smith get jiggy with Arcade Fire? Your only hope is to vote Obama. Prefer the idea of 50 Cent and Tony Bennett? Vote for Hillary and perhaps come November we’ll hear a new version of Fly Me To the Moon, with added gunshots.

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One response to “The Guardian: Musicians Are Supporting…

  1. I wish Obama to win these elections!

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