Music Paints: When politics and music merge


When musicians you like take a stand on a political, environmental, human rights or other issue, does it cause you to re-evaluate your decision to enjoy their music?

The most recent example is country singer Tim McGraw, who will headline a benefit concert for Sandy Hook Promise — a group advocating common-sense gun laws that was organized after the 2012 elementary school shooting that left 26 dead.

The concert is scheduled for July 17 in Hartford, Connecticut, and is the result of a friendship between one of McGraw's band members and the father of one of the children who died during the shooting rampage.

In a statement to the press, McGraw said, "Out of this tragedy, a group was formed that made a promise to honor the lives lost and turn it into a moment of transformation. Sandy Hook Promise teaches that we can do something to protect our children from gun violence. I want to be a part of that promise — as a father and as a friend."

Some conservatives are outraged that a country singer, coming from a musical genre usually associated with traditional values, would perform at a concert they consider anti-gun.

On the opposite end of the gun control debate is Ted Nugent, another example of a musician using the power of the performance stage to express his views, only this time in favor of gun ownership and the National Rifle Association.

At the NRA's annual convention, which included appearances by several Republican presidential candidates, Nugent called Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid a "lying prick" and said, if the opportunity arose, he'd "shoot him."

How does this make you feel if you're a Democrat and anti-gun advocate, but you just happen to like Nugent's music?

Dogs on cars: Now, let's look at former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

During the campaign in 2012, it came out that in 1983, Seamus, the Romneys' Irish setter, got sick while spending 12 hours riding on the roof of a station wagon as the family drove to a vacation.

Late-night host David Letterman spoke about Seamus frequently. "Dogs Aren't Luggage" T-shirts were sold, and Facebook groups like "Dogs Against Romney" protested outside the Westminster dog show.

Now remember the group Devo, best-known for the song "Whip It" and costumes that included yellow jumpsuits and flower pot hats.

In the summer of 2012, the band released a single called "Don't Roof Rack Me, Bro (Seamus Unleashed)," dedicated to Romney's former pet dog.

Was Devo making a political statement to discredit Romney during the election, or simply taking advantage of the story to get some publicity?

Elvis and Nixon: On Dec. 21, 1970, Elvis Presley met with President Richard M. Nixon at the White House to request a special badge.

Elvis had a collection of police badges and decided that he wanted one from the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

According to Priscilla Presley's memoir, "with the federal narcotics badge, he (believed he) could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished."

The meeting was captured with a photograph of Elvis and President Nixon that became one of the most requested photographs in the National Archives history. It's now available at the Archives gift shop in the form of T-shirts, coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets and snow globes.

If you happened to be an anti-war protester and didn't care for President Nixon in 1970, but were a big fan of Elvis, did this photograph have any impact on your viewpoint?

Did the appearance of Elvis with the president make Nixon a little more acceptable? Did you feel betrayed by Presley's (presumed) acceptance of Nixon, or didn't it matter to you?

That was decades ago, but with the presidential election coming up next year, we'll see an increasing number of candidates teaming up with celebrities to reflect credibility by association.

Will you be listening?