Donald Trump Goes to War with the Village People over ‘YMCA’
Former President Donald Trump uses a number of regular songs at his rallies. But Trump’s team either doesn’t know what
Former President Donald Trump uses a number of regular songs at his rallies.
But Trump’s team either doesn’t know what the political leanings of the artists who created them are, or they don’t care – either way, they’ve run into a number of issues over the years with using songs without permission of the artists.
And now, Team Trump has stepped in it with the Village People – performers of “YMCA,” “Macho Man” and other songs beloved of the former President at his rallies.
Donald Trump vs the Village People
Village People Slaps Trump With Cease and Desist Following Recent ‘Macho Man’ Mar-a-Lago Performance https://t.co/QWs3PBu2EG
— Molly Ploofkins™ (@Mollyploofkins) May 15, 2023
In 2020, Village People frontman Victor Willis asked that Trump stop using some of the group’s most popular hits.
These included “YMCA” and “Macho Man.”
However, Trump did not listen and kept using the songs.
But things came to a head recently when Trump was recorded at a Mar-a-Lago event dancing to “YMCA” alongside Village People impersonators, giving the impression that the band had attended and implying their support of the former President.
Now, Karen Willis, wife of Victor, has sent an official Cease & Desist (C&D) letter to demand that he stop using the songs. In it, she wrote, “We have been inundated with social media posts about the imitation performance where many fans, and the general public as well, mistakenly believe to be that of the actual Village People.” She continued, “Therefore the performance has, and continues to cause public confusion as to why Village People would engage in such a performance. We did not.”
Karen added that the group does not wish to endorse Trump, writing, “Though my husband has publicly tolerated your client’s use of his Village People music, we cannot allow such use by him to cause public confusion as to an endorsement.”
Joe Tacopina, Trump’s lawyer, has already dismissed the letter, saying that he will only deal with the lawyer of the Village People, not Victor’s wife. He added that the Village People should just be thankful that their names are back in the press now due to Trump.
Donald Trump and All the Artists He’s Angered Over the Years
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But Trump’s battle with artists over their right to avoid the appearance of endorsing him is not limited to the Village People.
This has happened over the years – many times.
Here’s a quick list of all the artists he’s butted heads with since entering the political arena:
- Adele: In 2016, the British artist told Trump that he did not have permission to play her songs at his rallies, including “Rolling in the Deep” or “Skyfall.” She later endorsed Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.
- Aerosmith: Frontman Steven Tyler sent a C&D letter to Trump’s team to demand he stop using, “Dream On,” and then again to demand he stop using, “Living on the Edge.”
- The Beatles: The estate of Beatles’ George Harrison demanded that Trump stop using the song he wrote for the band, “Here Comes the Sun.” They did offer to let him use, “Beware of Darkness.”
- Bruce Springsteen: Springsteen never sent a C&D over the use of his famed song, “Born in the USA” which Trump often trotted out at rallies. However, he openly endorsed Clinton so that every time his song was played at a rally, it was booed by Trump supporters.
- Creedence Clearwater Revival: CCR’s John Fogerty opposed Trump’s use of the band’s song, “Fortunate Son.” In face, he said, Trump was perverting the meaning of the song, and he wrote in a C&D that Trump “is using my words and my voice to portray a message that I do not endorse.” Fogerty openly endorsed Joe Biden.
- Eddy Grant: Grant issued a copyright complaint over Trump’s use of the song “Electric Avenue” for a campaign video, and they were forced to take the song down.
- Guns N’ Roses: GNR frontman Axl Rose opposed the Trump team’s usage of the GNR cover of Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” in a visit to a meatpacking factory during the COVID-19 pandemic where Trump refused to wear a mask. Rose later launched a t-shirt campaign with the words, “Live and let die with COVID 45” in retaliation.
- Isaac Hayes: Shortly after the Uvalde school massacre, Donald Trump made an appearance at an NRA conference in Texas, using the Sam & Dave song, “Hold on, I’m Coming.” Hayes’ family blasted his use of the song, writing in a C&D, “The estate and family of Isaac Hayes DID NOT approve and would NEVER approve the use of ‘Hold on I’m coming’ by Sam and Dave by Donald Trump at this weekends @NRA convention. Our condolences go out to the victims and families of #Uvalde and mass shooting victims everywhere.” Song co-writer David Porter later tweeted, “Someone shared with me Donald Trump used the song ‘Hold On I’m Coming’ for a speaking appearance of his. Hell to the No! I did Not and would NOT approve of them using the song for any of his purposes! I also know Isaac’s estate wouldn’t approve as well! #Memphis #Music #Grammy.”
- Leonard Cohen: The estate of Cohen refused permission for Trump’s team to use his song “Hallelujah” at the Republican National Convention, but said they’d consider approving Trump to use, “You Want it Darker.”
- Linkin Park: In 2020, Trump re-tweeted a fan-made video set to the Linkin Park song, “In the End.” The band sent a C&D, writing, “Linkin Park did not and does not endorse Trump, nor authorize his organization to use any of our music. A cease and desist has been issued.” Lead singer Chester Bennington, who died in 2017, had before called Trump a “greater threat to the USA than terrorism.”
- Luciano Pavarotti: Pavarotti’s widow and three daughters objected to Trump’s use of Pavarotti’s recording of “Nessun Dorma,” saying that the former President’s views on immigration were incompatible with Pavarotti’s efforts as United Nations Messenger of Peace.
- Neil Young: Young has said multiple times that he does not support Trump’s use of “Rockin in the Free World” since 2015 but has conceded that he has no legal right to stop him. However, he wrote a blistering letter to Team Trump, saying, “Every time ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ or one of my songs is played at your rallies, I hope you hear my voice. Remember it is the voice of a tax-paying U.S. citizen who does not support you. Me.”
- Nickelback: Nickelback opposed the use of their song “Photograph” over a doctored video that Trump retweeted, and the band successfully filed a copyright complaint that ended with the video removed.
- Nico Vega: Vega criticized and later dropped a C&D on Team Trump for using the song “Beast” over a “Fight for Trump” video. Vega wrote, “To be clear, Nico Vega does not support the use of our song ‘Beast’ in Trump’s recent video, We have love and empathy for all people of all backgrounds, races and beliefs, and we feel sick how all Americans’ fears and vulnerabilities have been exploited over the last four years, We will not participate in a form of propaganda that pits Americans against one another.”
- Panic! At the Disco: P!atD’s frontman Brendan Urie demanded that Trump stop using their song “High Hopes” at his rallies. In the demand, Urie bluntly wrote, “Donald Trump represents nothing we stand for…Dear Trump Campaign, F— you. You’re not invited. Stop playing my song. No thanks, Brendon Urie, Panic! At The Disco & company.”
- Pharrell Williams: Williams objected to Trump’s use of his song “Happy,” threatening legal action if the team continued to use the song.
- Phil Collins: Collins’ team sent a C&D letter to Trump’s team after they used “In the Air Tonight” at a rally in Iowa.
- Prince: The estate of Prince demanded that Trump stop using “Purple Rain” and made clear that they did not receive permission.
- Queen: Brian May of Queen strongly opposed Trump’s use of “We Are the Champions” as his “theme song” when he arrived at the Republican National Convention.
- R.E.M.: In 2015, singer Michael Stipe opposed Trump’s use of “It’s the End of the World as We Know it (and I Feel Fine),” saying, “Do not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign.” They later tussled again over Trump’s use of “Everybody Hurts” and “Losing My Religion.”
- Rihanna: Rihanna’s team made it clear that they had no political affiliation with Trump in 2018 and did not endorse his use of her song, “Don’t Stop the Music.”
- The Rolling Stones: Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the band demanded that Trump stop using “You Can’t Always Get What you Want” with a C&D. They sent letters in 2016 and 2020 and threatened legal action if he kept using the song.
- Tom Petty: Petty’s family opposed the use of “I Won’t Back Down.” In a C&D letter, the Petty family said that the song was written for the “underdog” and “common man,” neither of which fits Trump.
- The White Stripes: Trump used the band’s “Seven Nation Army” in a 2016, and lead singer Jack White and his former white and bandmate Meg White issued a statement saying that they had not given permission for Trump to use their song and did not endorse him. In late 2016, they released a new merch line based on their last studio album titled “Icky Thump,” and they changed it to “Icky Trump” and including altered lyrics criticizing Trump’s ideologies and his supporters.
And that’s just so far – with another election season in the offing, it’s clear that Trump won’t stop using music any time soon and will likely run up against many more C&D letters and horrified artists.