Aug. 4, 2000 -- Bill Clinton chose soft rock, but George W. Bush is more of a country guy.
That’s the message of his new theme song, “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.”
Campaign SingalongAl Gore’s campaign doesn’t have a single official song, but he’s following in President Clinton’s soft-rock theme. Clinton told voters, “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. Vice President Gore has used the 1970’s hit by Orleans, “Still the One,” a testimony to lasting love, and the recent Fatboy Slim dance hit “Praise You” on the campaign trail, among other songs. “Praise You” is a technological pile of samples, synths and voice loops, perhaps appropriate for a man who once said he invented the Internet.
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. 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.