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Opinion - Dr. Larry Burriss: Music and Politics


MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (BURRISS)  --  There’s a saying about nothing new under the sun, and this summer’s political landscape has certainly born that out.  Charges and counter-charges about plagiarism, accusations and allegations of duplicity, rebuttals and reprimands coming from all directions.  And all of it as old as the republic.
    Take, for example, the music used, and misused, as part of the political rhetoric.  Almost every rally and demonstration is accompanied by rock, jazz and even classical music.
    But is any of this new?  Absolutely not.
    George Washington, in one of his political campaigns, used a song, “God Save Washington,” which was a parody of “God Save the King.”  Franklin Roosevelt’s theme song was “Happy Days are Here Again,” John Kennedy used “High Hopes,” and candidate Barack Obama featured “Only in America.”
    But that is only on the surface.  As with most other parts of a campaign, music is deliberately chosen to energize and motivate both campaign workers and potential voters.  And as such, is carefully chosen.
    Each campaign playlist has to reflect both the candidate and the electorate.  After all, music can bring back memories, evoke an immediate response and reveal who we want to be. 
    A fancy word for all of this is “co-orientation,” the idea that both the candidate and the electorate have to be on the same page, as it were, with the message being sent.  Otherwise the voter will tend to tune the message out, something the candidates certainly don’t want to happen.
    Then there are the perennial problems of copyright and right to publicity.  And as we’ve seen numerous times during this election season, artists are absolutely opposed to candidates using their music without permission.
    Somehow it was all so much easier when we just listened to the music, and maybe sang along, instead of wondering how the politicians were going to use our music to get our vote. 
    I’m Larry Burriss.