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Neil Young rips Donald Trump over unauthorized use of ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ at rallies

November 8, 2018

Grammy Award-winning musician Neil Young lashed out at President Trump after hearing one of his songs played against his wishes during recent pre-midterm campaign rallies.

The Canadian-born musician admonished Mr. Trump on Tuesday for continuing to use his 1990 single, “Rockin’ in the Free World,” in spite of earlier warnings that started more than three years ago on literally the first day of the president’s election campaign.

“DT does not have my permission to use the song ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ at his appearances. Legally, he has the right to, however, it goes against my wishes. I made this perfectly clear after he played it in a media moment to announce his candidacy. I asked him then, in a widely shared public letter to cease and desist,” Mr. Young said.

“However, he chose not to listen to my request, just as he chooses not to listen to the many American voices who ask him to stop his constant lies, to stop his petty, nasty name calling and bullying, to stop pushing his dangerous, vilifying and hateful rhetoric,” he said on his website.

The White House referred to the president’s re-election campaign when reached for comment. Mr. Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a similar inquiry.

Mr. Trump descended a Trump Tower elevator to the tune of “Rockin’ in the Free World” immediately prior to declaring his candidacy on June 16, 2015, and Mr. Young issued a statement within hours distancing himself from the future president.

“Donald Trump was not authorized to use ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ in his presidential candidacy announcement,” the statement said. “Neil Young, a Canadian citizen, is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for President of the United States.”

“Rockin’ in the Free World” was heard during several of Mr. Trump’s recent pre-midterm campaign rallies, however, including an Oct. 12 event in Lebanon, Ohio, that spurred a separate but similar dispute last month.

Footage of the Ohio rally uploaded by the Right Side Broadcasting Network, a YouTube channel that regularly streams Mr. Trump’s events, reported last month that YouTube removed its video of the president’s Ohio rally because it contained background audio of the same song.

“YouTube ‘blocked’ our original video with over 110,000 views because apparently 20 seconds of audio from the PA system at the rally triggered a copyright warning,” RSBN said in the description for an edited version subsequently uploaded to the channel. “We’ve disputed the claim as we think it’s absolutely ridiculous for 20 seconds of audio at a private event being played in the background can cause a video to be blocked.”

It was not immediately clear if the video was flagged automatically or on behalf of Mr. Young. Representatives for neither YouTube nor Mr. Young immediately returned messages seeking comment.

Mr. Young was the first major artist to oppose having his music associated with Mr. Trump’s political efforts, albeit hardly the last. Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler sent a cease-and-desist letter to the White House in August after Mr. Trump played one of his songs at rallies without permission, “Livin’ on the Edge,” and the Prince estate similarly asked the president last month to stop playing “Purple Rain” at his events.

More recently, Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose blasted the Trump campaign last week for playing the band’s 1987 single “Sweet Child O’ Mine” during the president’s rallies for Republican candidates.

“Unfortunately the Trump campaign is using loopholes in the various venues’ blanket performance licenses which were not intended for such craven political purposes, without the songwriters’ consent,” the singer said on Twitter.

Mr. Young, 72, has been nominated for more than two dozen Grammy Awards during his decadeslong recording career, winning two in addition to the Grammy’s 2010′s MusiCares Person of the Year Award, among other accolades. He has been inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, including twice in the latter: first in 1995 for his solo work, and again in 1997 with Buffalo Springfield, a rock band he formed in the 1960s.

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