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Campaign songs are songs used by candidates or political campaigns. Most modern campaign songs are upbeat popular songs or original compositions that articulate a positive message about a campaign or candidate, usually appealing to patriotism, optimism, or a good-natured reference to a personal quality of the candidate such as their ethnic origin or the part of the country they are from. In some cases, the campaign song can be a veiled attack on an opposing candidate or party. The use of a campaign song is primarily known in the quadrennial United States presidential election, where both major party candidates usually use one or more songs to identify with their campaign.
History in the United States
The origin of campaign songs were partisan ditties used in American political canvasses and more especially in presidential contests. The words were commonly set to established melodies like "Yankee Doodle," "Hail, Columbia," "Rosin the Bow," "Hail to the Chief" "John Brown's Body," "Dixie" and "O Tannenbaum" ("Maryland, My Maryland"); or to tunes widely popular at the time, such as "Few Days," "Champagne Charlie," "The Wearing of the Green" or "Down in a Coal Mine," which served for "Up in the White House." Perhaps the best known of them was "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too," (in which words by Alexander C. Ross were adapted to the folk tune, "Little Pigs"). First heard at Zanesville, Ohio, this spread rapidly over the country, furnishing a party slogan. It has been said: "What the Marseilles Hymn was to Frenchmen, 'Tippecanoe and Tyler Too' was to the Whigs of 1840." In 1872 an attempt was made to revive the air for "Greeley Is the Real True Blue." The words, sometimes with music, of campaign songs were distributed in paper-covered song books or "songsters." Among these were the Log Cabin Song Book of 1840 and Hutchinson's Republican Songster for the presidential campaign of 1860, compiled by J. W. Hutchinson. For many years national campaigns included itinerant stumpspeakers, live animals, fife-and-drum corps, red fire, floats, transparencies and rousing mass meetings in courthouses and town halls. Glee clubs were organized to introduce campaign songs and to lead audiences and matchers in singing them. The songs were real factors in holding the interest of crowds, emphasizing issues, developing enthusiasm and satirizing opponents. With changes in the methods of campaigning, the campaign song declined as a popular expression.
Source: Dictionary of American History by James Truslow Adams, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1940
Presidential campaign songs
- 1824 and 1828: Andrew Jackson: "The Hunters of Kentucky" (Samuel Woodworth)
- 1840: William Henry Harrison: "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" (Alexander Coffman Ross)
- 1860: Abraham Lincoln: "Lincoln and Liberty" (Jesse Hutchinson of the Hutchinson Family Singers)
- 1864: Abraham Lincoln: "Battle Cry of Freedom" (George F. Root)
- 1928: Al Smith: "Sidewalks of New York"
- 1932: Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Happy Days Are Here Again"
- 1948: Harry S Truman: "I'm Just Wild About Harry"
- 1960: John F. Kennedy: "High Hopes"
- 1964: Lyndon B. Johnson: "Hello Lyndon" (Jerry Herman)
- 1964: Barry Goldwater: "Go with Goldwater" (Tom McDonnell and Otis Clements)
- 1968: Richard Nixon: "Nixon's the One" (Moose Charlap and Alvin Cooperman)
- 1972: Richard Nixon: "Nixon Now"
- 1972: George McGovern: "Bridge over Troubled Water" (Paul Simon)
- 1976: Jimmy Carter: "Ode to The Georgia Farmer" (K.E. and Julia Marsh)
- 1976: Gerald Ford: "I'm Feeling Good about America" (Robert K. Gardner)
- 1980: Ronald Reagan "California Here We Come"
- 1984: Walter Mondale "Gonna Fly Now"
- 1988: George H. W. Bush: "This Land Is Your Land" (Woody Guthrie)
- 1988: Michael Dukakis: "America" (Neil Diamond)
- 1992: Bill Clinton: Don't Stop (Fleetwood Mac)
- 1992: Ross Perot: Crazy (Patsy Cline)
- 1996: Bob Dole: "Dole Man" (Sam and Dave)
- 1996: Bill Clinton: "This is the Moment" (Frank Wildhorn)
- 2000: George W. Bush: "I Won't Back Down" (Tom Petty) (Who threatened to sue Bush if he did not stop using the song. Petty then performed the song at Al Gore's home minutes after he conceded the election.), "We the People" (Billy Ray Cyrus), "Right Now" (Van Halen)
- 2000: Al Gore: "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" (Bachman–Turner Overdrive),"Let the Day Begin" (The Call)
- 2004: George W. Bush: "Only in America" (Brooks & Dunn), "Wave on Wave" by Pat Green
- 2004: John Kerry: "No Surrender" (Bruce Springsteen) , "Fortunate Son" by John Fogerty, Beautiful Day by U2
- 2008: John McCain: "Take Us Out" by Jerry Goldsmith, "Take A Chance On Me" (ABBA), "Our Country" (John Mellencamp), "Raisin' McCain" (John Rich)
- 2008: Barack Obama: "Yes We Can" (will.i.am featuring various artists), "Better Way" (Ben Harper), "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" (Stevie Wonder), "City of Blinding Lights" (U2), "Higher and Higher" (Jackie Wilson), "Think" (Aretha Franklin), "The Rising" (Bruce Springsteen), "Only in America" (Brooks & Dunn)
- 2008 primary candidates: Hillary Clinton: "You and I" (Celine Dion), "Takin' Care of Business" (Bachman–Turner Overdrive), "9 to 5"(Dolly Parton) and "American Girl"(Tom Petty); Chris Dodd: "Get Ready" and "Reach Out I'll Be There" by The Four Tops; John Edwards: "Our Country" by John Mellencamp; Rudy Giuliani: Take Us Out by Jerry Goldsmith (theme from "Rudy") and "Rudie Can't Fail" by The Clash; Mike Huckabee: "More Than A Feeling" by Boston (Tom Scholz of Boston asked Huckabee to stop using the song), Dennis Kucinich: "Give Peace a Chance" by John Lennon
- 2008 Cynythia McKinney (Green Party Nominee): "Power to the People" by John Lennon
- 2012: Mitt Romney: Born Free by Kid Rock and It's America by Rodney Atkins
- 2012: Barack Obama: We Take Care of Our Own by Bruce Springsteen
Jackson supporters used this Battle of New Orleans anthem as their campaign song.
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As used in the 1840 campaign.
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- 'Music Minefield'- a humorous AP interactive with animations. Examines certain candidates Campaign Songs intended and unintended meanings.
- The Republican campaign songster, for 1860 by William Henry Burleigh. Digitized from the collection of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library.
- Sing a Song of Howard Dean
- Campaign Jukebox, 2004 model
- Gone are the days of 'Happy Days Are Here Again.'
- Singing to the Oval Office
- Songs in the Key of Presidency
- Candidate's Tunes Hit A Few Sour Notes
- 'Only in America' could Obama borrow the GOP's favorite Brooks and Dunn song