Campaign Music: Bush A Little Bit Country, Gore A Little Bit Rock 'N' Roll

Presidential candidates using music to define their themes.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush is a little bit country, and Vice President Al Gore is a little bit rock 'n' roll.

While the former may be easier to swallow than the latter, the two presidential candidates are using music to help define their themes and themselves.

In an ongoing effort to portray himself as a regular guy, the Yale-educated Bush has selected "We the People" — performed by the balladeer Waylon Jennings, John Anderson (not the former presidential candidate) and Billy Ray Cyrus (whose "Achy Breaky Heart" topped the charts just as Bush's father was leaving office) — as his official campaign song.

"We pay the taxes, we pay the bills/ So they better pay attention up on Capitol Hill," the country stars sing in the recently penned tune.

Meanwhile, Gore has gone the classic rock route, stealing a page from President Clinton, who used Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)" (RealAudio excerpt) to help highlight his agenda for change in 1992. The native Tennessean has chosen Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" (RealAudio excerpt) as one of his three campaign theme songs, along with Orleans' soft-rock hit "Still the One" (RealAudio excerpt).

But in a bid to show his hipness, the Gore campaign selected the 1999 Fatboy Slim hit "Praise You" (RealAudio excerpt), currently making the rounds in a Mercedes-Benz commercial, as his third theme song.

A History Of Restrictive Moves

But Gore is having a hard time convincing some of his rock 'n' roll pedigree, due in part to his perceived stiffness — many have lampooned his robotic gyrations to the "Macarena" song during the 1996 campaign — but mainly because of his wife's involvement in the successful effort to label records containing explicit content.

The parental advisory stickers now common on CDs are a result of lobbying efforts by the Parents Music Resource Center, a group of powerful Washington wives that was co-founded by Tipper Gore.

Tipper has been quiet on that front for several years, but Gore's vice presidential pick, Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, is an outspoken critic of "increasingly toxic popular culture" in television, movies, music, video games and on the Internet. Lieberman, along with former drug czar William Bennett, has handed out "Silver Sewer Awards" to movies, television programs, music and video games with sexually explicit or violent content.

He reminded a national television audience Wednesday of the potential first family's involvement in his movement to convince Hollywood to clean up its act.

"Long before it became popular, Al and Tipper led a crusade to renew the moral center of this nation, to call America to live by its highest ideals," Lieberman said in a speech at the Democratic National Convention. "He knows that in many Americans, there is a swelling sense that our standards of decency and civility have eroded.

"No parent should be forced to compete with popular culture to raise their children."

Industry Alternately Wary, Supportive

Talk like that scares some music industry insiders, who worry the combined influence of Lieberman and Tipper Gore will lead to renewed efforts to censor certain forms of entertainment.

"These people are merciless," veteran rock critic and author Dave Marsh said. "Lieberman's selection spits in the face of the industry. How anyone involved in the entertainment industry could in their right mind support one of them, let alone both of them, is beyond comprehension."

But many are. Stars such as Barbra Streisand, the Goo Goo Dolls (who, according to their publicist, are remaining nonpartisan), Melissa Etheridge, Cher, Boyz II Men and Enrique Iglesias have serenaded the Democrats this week at fund-raisers, private parties for delegates and even on the convention stage.

Much like the Republicans did in Philadelphia, the Democrats have stressed music with a Latin flavor at their convention, inviting such bands as Los Angeles rockers Los Lobos to perform.

Another band out of East L.A., Lil' Rudy G. and the Chizmosos, also received an invite from the Democrats, who apparently weren't aware of the band's in-your-face message.

"They pulled the plug on us," said frontman Rudy Gandara, who was invited to perform Wednesday for delegates outside the convention hall. DNC organizers shut off their mics amid the Chicano anthem "Thank You," according to Gandara. DNC officials could not be reached for comment.

"They had no idea what they were getting," Gandara said of his band, which he describes as a mix of techno and Chicano funk. "We were expecting to be shut down. They wanted a docile animal, and that's not me. We were raging against the machine, right in their face."

GOP Draws Fire

The GOP has faced criticism from those who feel Latinos were used as props at their convention.

"It is perverse that the Republicans are trying to forge a connection to the Latin community with the use of my song 'The Cup of Life/La Copa de la Vida' and by parading famous Latinos onstage," Robi Rosa, writer of the hit song sung by Ricky Martin, said in a statement.

"Seventy-five percent of the delegates to the Republican convention earn over $1 million a year — I don't see the connection at all," Rosa said. "I can't wait to see what famous Puerto Rican they are going to pull out of their closet when they campaign in NYC."

One band not supporting either major candidate is Rage Against the Machine, who performed a free concert for demonstrators outside of the Democratic convention Monday night — a protest that was cut short by police armed with billy clubs and pepper spray, who declared an "unlawful assembly" soon after Rage finished their show.