Top Musicians in Politics

Music is certainly a form of expression -- political expression, that is. Outspoken musicians have been throwing their two cents into the political arena for years, backing candidates, airing their views about political pundits and making their opinions known. From plugs against animal cruelty to musical rights issues, take a look at a few musicians who have tangled with politicians.

Silversun Pickups Hit 'Panic Switch' on Use of Hit

Rock group Silversun Pickups sent the Romney campaign a "cease and desist" letter on Aug. 15, 2012, after the campaign's use of the group's 2009 hit, "Panic Switch," at a North Carolina event came to light. A news release said that the group "has no intention of endorsing the Romney campaign," and the group's lead singer said, "We don't like the Romney campaign" in a recent statement. The Romney campaign said the song was played inadvertently and is not a typical choice, though campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul maintained that the campaign is licensed to use the music through blanket agreements. Either way, "Panic Switch" doesn't seem suitable music for the campaign. The song that earned the group a 2009 Grammy nomination talks of "the red views" that "keep ripping the divide."

Devo's for Seamus

Devo, of 1980's "Whip It" fame, is back on everyone's radar and coming out with a new single. The punk rockers aren't making a political endorsement. They're backing Seamus, the Romneys' now-famous dog. Devo, which claimed it isn't backing Obama in releasing the new song, said it just wanted to draw attention to Romney's "character flaw." Romney admitted to strapping Seamus to the roof of the family car for a 1984 drive from Boston to Canada.

PHOTO: Mitt Romney and Kid Rock
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Kid Rock and Mitt Romney: A Campaign Theme Song

Kid Rock threw his star power behind GOP nominee Mitt Romney in Michigan in February 2012. The singer of "Born Free," which has become the GOP candidate's campaign anthem, put on a performance at a Romney rally during his home state's primary. While Kid Rock never formally endorsed Romney, he did meet with him one-on-one prior to the performance.

Megadeth for Santorum 2012

Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine jumped into politics -- and the mainstream -- in February 2012, when he endorsed then-GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum. The endorsement was credited with giving Santorum a bit of a boost in the polls at the time. One taste of politics wasn't enough for what many call the best metal guitarist alive. Mustaine has also said that he believes President Obama to be behind the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shootings and the Wisconsin Sikh shootings.

Kelly Clarkson's for Ron Paul, and Buyers Are for Her Music

The "American Idol" sweetheart tweeted an endorsement of Ron Paul in December 2011, saying that he had her vote if he could secure the Republican nomination -- which Clarkson acknowledged as unlikely. The endorsement paid off for someone, though: Clarkson's album sales spiked on Amazon the day after her tweet.

PHOTO: Dennis Kucinich, left, and musician Willie Nelson sing during a campaign fund-raising concert in Austin, Texas, in this Jan. 3, 2004, file photo.
Jack Plunkett/AP Photo
Willie Nelson and Dennis Kucinich Bromance

Old-time country legend Willie Nelson voiced his support for Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, in January 2012. Nelson held a sold-out 1,400 seat concert in Lorain, Ohio, to sing in support of Kucinich, his longtime friend. He even helped him raise money as a long-shot candidate for the presidency in 2004. Nelson has become more involved in political activism recently. He openly supports legalizing marijuana and, in May 2012, spoke in favor of propositions to do so in California and elsewhere. In the past, Nelson has had some problems with the law, particularly drug laws.

PHOTO: Hank Williams Jr. and President Obama
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Hank Williams Jr. and Barack Obama: Foul! Unnecessary Roughness

Country singer Hank Williams Jr. thrust himself into the political landscape in October 2011 when he compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler on "Fox and Friends." In response to that comment, among others, ESPN ended its partnership with Hank Jr. and his "Are You Ready for Some Football" theme song for "Monday Night Football."

Tom Petty: Sorry Michele, Hillary's the 'American Girl'

Tom Petty slammed Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann for using his song, "American Girl," in two campaign events during the beginning of her bid for the GOP presidential nomination. The singer-songwriter served the Tea Party darling with a cease-and-desist order in June 2011. In making the complaint, Petty may have showed partisan leanings. Hillary Clinton used "American Girl" in her 2008 campaign and got no flak from Petty.

Gov. Charlie Crist and David Byrne: The YouTube Apology

In 2010, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist used the Talking Heads' "Road to Nowhere" in a video spot for his senatorial campaign. Talking Heads frontman David Byrne slammed Crist for not having obtained permission to use his music in advertisements, and in April 2011, Crist was forced to grovel on YouTube as part of his out-of-court settlement with Byrne, saying, "I sincerely apologize to David Byrne for using his famous song and unique voice in my campaign advertisement without his permission."

PHOTO: Lee Greenwood and Sarah Palin
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Lee Greenwood: Enduring One-Hit Wonder

A supporter of the Republican Party, the "God Bless the USA" singer was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the National Council of the Arts for a six-year term. "God Bless the USA," Greenwood's trademark song, is a sort of unofficial national anthem, in some circles.

PHOTO: Kinky Friedman
Eric Gay/AP Photo
Kinky Friedman's Foray

Texan and country singer Kinky Friedman maintains a colorful presence in Texas state politics. Friedman, who once said, "I'm not pro-life, and I'm not pro-choice. I'm pro-football," campaigned for governor of Texas in 2006 promising to "dewussify" the Lone Star State. Most recently, Friedman endorsed Rick Perry's 2012 bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

PHOTO: Natalie Maines and Toby Keith
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Natalie Maines and Toby Keith: 2004 War of Words

After Natalie Maines said she was ashamed of President George W. Bush's Texas roots and critiqued Bush's policies in Iraq as well as one of Toby Keith's songs, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue," Keith shot back. While Keith never came out in full support of the Iraq war, he slammed Maines and the Dixie Chicks for what he considered a lack of patriotism. The rocker used backdrops of Maines with Saddam Hussein at his concerts, to which Maines responded by donning a shirt that read "FUTK" at one of the Dixie Chicks' performances. Immediately after Maines' comments, the Dixie Chicks saw ticket sales drop dramatically, enough to force them to cancel tours in 2004.

The Boss Against the Commander-in-Chief

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan ignited a battle with Bruce Springsteen when he co-opted The Boss' hit, "Born in the U.S.A.," for use in his re-election campaign. Springsteen vehemently opposed Reagan's use of the song, an anthem of disillusionment with the Vietnam War. The controversy was the initial battle over a much-coveted campaign song, and the prototype for musician-candidate spats.

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