WASHINGTON—U.S President Donald Trump arrived at a rally in Michigan on Thursday to the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Fortunate Son” — a curious choice for a wealthy heir who avoided the Vietnam draft by receiving five medical deferrals.
“Some folks are born, silver spoon in hand. Lord, don’t they help themselves, y’all,” the song goes, later adding in the chorus: “I ain’t no millionaire’s son, no, no.”
It caught the attention of the songwriter, John Fogerty, who said Friday that he found it confounding that Trump — of all people — would play the song at his events.
“It’s a song I could have written now, and so I find it confusing, I would say, that the president has chosen to use my song for his political rallies when in fact, it seems like he is probably the fortunate son,” Fogerty said in a video posted on Instagram.
The 1969 CCR hit is the latest addition to an incongruous and evolving playlist that Trump’s campaign has developed for his rallies and speeches. And Fogerty’s reaction to the campaign’s choice of “Fortunate Son” adds to the controversy surrounding Trump’s musical score, which has at times been altered after artists have objected to the Republican borrowing their songs.
The Rolling Stones even threatened to sue the campaign for using “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” as exit music at rallies. The campaign replaced it. Lately, Trump has been leaving the stage to the 1970s disco hit “YMCA” by the Village People — and the president has even been seen almost, but not quite, dancing to the tune.
The Trump campaign and White House didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The musical choices for Trump’s events suggest he’s a creature of habit: The same songs are generally played over and over, whether at a campaign rally or a presidential event. His rally mainstay is the patriotic tune “God Bless the U.S.A.,” by Lee Greenwood, who occasionally appears at the events to sing it live.
Democrat Joe Biden does not hold large campaign rallies, drawing less attention to his playlists. The Democratic convention made liberal use of Bruce Springsteen songs and featured a number of hit artists, including performances by singers Billie Eilish, Jennifer Hudson, Leon Bridges, John Legend and the rapper Common.
In addition to the Stones, Neil Young and the estate of Tom Petty and have publicly objected to the Trump campaign dipping into their catalogues. The rock band Guns N’ Roses has mocked Trump for using one of its songs.
The Village People have not objected to Trump’s regular use of their songs, including “YMCA” and “Macho Man.”
“YMCA is everybody’s anthem and go-to song for fun. As for the president’s use, I have not granted permission for use at his rallies because permission is not required,” a spokesperson for the band said in a statement attributed to “YMCA” writer Victor Willis.
“If I were a Trump hater maybe I’d sue him simply out of spite,” Willis added. “I am not, and I’m not going to have my lawyers sue the president. But he should at least do the ‘YMCA’ dance while he’s at it.”
The Trump campaign has a “Political Entities License” with BMI, a music rights management company, that authorizes use of millions of songs, according to a BMI spokesperson.
“There is a provision, however, that allows BMI to exclude musical works from the license if a songwriter or publisher objects to its use by a campaign,” BMI said in a statement.
The Rolling Stones filed such an objection. Trump had played “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at the conclusion of his rallies until June.
Trump’s music choices have regularly raised eyebrows. In May, Trump’s team played “Live and Let Die,” by Guns N’ Roses, as he toured a factory manufacturing masks at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
The band responded by trolling Trump with a new T-shirt.
Young sued the president’s campaign after it played one of his songs at rallies, noting that he had objected since 2015 to Trump’s use of his catalogue.
And when Trump resumed his campaign rallies in Tulsa, Okla., in June, following the pandemic shutdown, his choice of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” sparked a cease-and-desist notice from the artist’s family.
“Both the late Tom Petty and his family stand against racism and discrimination of any kind,” the family said in a statement. “Tom Petty would never want a song used for a campaign of hate.”
As for Fogerty, he said in his statement that Trump’s June march across Lafayette Square, across from the White House, to hold a Bible in front of a church damaged in police brutality protests was emblematic of the kind of people “Fortune Son” was intended to criticize.
“The very first lines of ‘Fortunate Son’ is, some folks are born to wave the flag, oh they’re red white and blue, but when the band plays ‘Hail to the Chief,’ they point the cannon at you,” Fogerty said. “Well, that’s exactly what happened in Lafayette Park when the president decided to take a walk across the park, he cleared out the area using federal troops so that he could stand in front of St. John’s Church with a Bible.”
But Fogerty stopped short of asking that Trump cease using the song.