Al Gore’s trying for a hard-rocking image with his campaign songs, but George W. Bush is more of a country guy.
The Gore campaign doesn’t have one official song, but is using a collection of 1970s and modern hits, including “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” a 1974 hit by Bachman Turner Overdrive; “Still the One,” by Orleans, a testimony to lasting love, and the recent Fatboy Slim dance hit “Praise You.”
With the BTO song, Gore’s campaign has focused on the chorus, which says, “Here’s something that you’re never gonna forget — baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet,”
But some of the verses sound a bit off-message for a presidential campaign, especially the bit about “I met a devil woman, she took my heart away.”
“My guess is they might cut it off before they get to that,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss told Good Morning America.
BTO is a Canadian band, but then again, Gore has always supported NAFTA.
“Still the One” is a less ambiguous love song. “Praise You” is a technological pile of samples, synths and voice loops, perhaps appropriate for a man who once said he invented the Internet.
Rockin’ in the U.S.A.
Gore follows in a ’70s theme from President Clinton, who used “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)” from Fleetwood Mac’s famous 1977 album Rumours, an optimistic song that might have a personal message for Clinton: “Why not think about times to come / And not about the things that you’ve done,” the band sings.
But Clinton doesn’t particularly like that song, Beschloss said. He wanted an Elvis song for his 1992 campaign, but every song his handlers tried to use was about romances gone wrong. They thought that was off-message, so they turned to Fleetwood Mac, he said.
George W. Bush’s campaign chose a brand-new country song for their theme, “We the People,” sung by a group of country stars including Waylon Jennings, John Anderson, and Billy Ray Cyrus. The song wasn’t specifically written for the Bush campaign, but it seemed a good match, said Bush media adviser Mark McKinnon.
The song sings the praises of farmers, truckers and factory workers, calling out, “We pay the taxes, we pay the bills / So they better pay attention up on Capitol Hill.” The songwriters even slip in a good word for “middle managers.”
The Sound of Democracy
Campaign songs have been around since 1800, but started playing a key role when William Henry Harrison’s partisans sang “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” in 1840, according to the PBS series The American President. Nineteenth-century songs were full of personal attacks and slogans, as when Lincoln supporters sang “Up with the banner so glorious / The star-spangled red, white, and blue / We’ll fight till our banner’s victorious / For Lincoln and Liberty, too,” the series recounts. The campaign song waned in the 20th century, but Franklin D. Roosevelt brought it back into vogue with “Happy Days are Here Again,” a bright, upbeat note in the economic darkness of the Depression, PBS says. Dwight Eisenhower’s theme I Like Ike was the first campaign song to be used on television. It was designed to make the World War II hero seem like an “accessible, friendly guy,” Beschloss said. Eisenhower won the 1952 election with the help of the song. Ronald Reagan, the “great communicator,” relied on the inspirational “God Bless the U.S.A.,” but had some disagreements with songwriters. His advisers’ attempt to use John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Little Pink Houses” was thwarted by the artist. And though he used Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” in his 1984 campaign, Springsteen is no Reaganite. Former president George Bush, the nominee’s father, looked for grandfatherly appeal with both “God Bless the U.S.A.” and “This Land is Your Land” — a Woody Guthrie song from 1940 repopularized in the 1960s. That song, which says, “This land is made for you and me,” ends on a darker note than most presidential candidates would prefer: “One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple /By the Relief Office I saw my people — / As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if / This land was made for you and me …”
ABCNEWS.com’s Sascha Segan contributed to this story.