Tag Archives: music & politics

“Four Dead in O-hi-o”
1970

Life magazine of May 15, 1970 showing one of the Kent State University students who was shot by National Guardsman during a time of unrest over the Vietnam War.
Life magazine of May 15, 1970 showing one of the Kent State University students who was shot by National Guardsman during a time of unrest over the Vietnam War.
     “Ohio” is the name of a song that marks one of America’s darkest moments on the home front during the Vietnam War.  The song came in reaction to the May 1970 shooting deaths of four students at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio — students shot by National Guard troops sent there to quell student unrest over the Vietnam War.  The song — by the rock group Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young —  is both a commemorative tune and a protest song that became popular, rising on the music charts following the shootings.  More on the song in a moment.  First, the events leading up to the shootings.

     On April 30th, 1970, U.S. President Richard Nixon addressed the nation in a televised broadcast in which he explained that American military troops, engaged in the Vietnam War, had been sent into neighboring Cambodia.  This action — perceived by many as an expansion of the war and an invasion of another country — came in the midst of an already contentious national mood over the Vietnam War.  Student protests over the war had already occurred on many college campuses.  With the Cambodian invasion, more protesting ensued, including protests at Kent State University, located in the town of Kent in the northeastern Ohio, not far from the Pennsylvania border.  In the town of Kent, on Friday evening, May 1st, following daytime demonstrations on campus, some store fronts were damaged, leading to a call to Ohio Governor James Rhodes and his activation of a National Guard unit.

National Guardsmen with bayonets fixed near Taylor Hall at Kent State University, prior to shootings.
National Guardsmen with bayonets fixed near Taylor Hall at Kent State University, prior to shootings.
     On Saturday, May 2nd, some students helped clean up the damage that had occurred in town.  However, later that evening, an Army Reserve Officer Training (ROTC) barracks on campus was surrounded by some 1,000 protesters, with a few setting it on fire.  Tensions mounted on all sides along with misunderstandings.  The National Guard, meanwhile, herded students into dormitories. 

On Sunday morning, May 3rd, Ohio’s Republican Governor James Rhodes, in a press conference that was also broadcast to the troops on campus, vowed to “eradicate the problem” of protest at Kent State.  Later that day, some impromptu demonstrations occurred in the streets with tear gas being fired by the Guard. As the planned campus demonstration for Monday, May 4th proceeded, about two thousand students gathered on a commons area.  The National Guard assumed a position nearby with loaded weapons and fixed bayonets.  The students were ordered to disband and things soon got out of control, resulting in the Guard firing on the students.  It was later determined that the Guard fired between 61 and 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds.  Four students were killed — two men and two women; two of whom were 19 years old and two 20.  Nine other male students were also wounded, one left with permanent paralysis.  Most of the injured were also in their early 20s.  Among those shot, not all were demonstrators; some were simply innocent bystanders.  The incident sparked national outrage  (see “Sources” below for links to more detailed accounts).

Mary Vecchio, screaming over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller, killed at Kent State on May 4, 1970. Photo was taken by undergraduate John Filo and appeared on newspaper front pages the next day. It has become the iconic image of that tragic day.
Mary Vecchio, screaming over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller, killed at Kent State on May 4, 1970. Photo was taken by undergraduate John Filo and appeared on newspaper front pages the next day. It has become the iconic image of that tragic day.
     The press and national media covered the story in detail, with many front-page newspaper accounts using what would become the iconic photograph of the event —  a young girl with arms outstretched screaming over the body of one of the slain students.  In the immediate aftermath of the shootings, protests and a student strike ensued across the country.

Also fueling the outrage that followed was a remark President Nixon had made on a visit to the Pentagon on May 1, 1970. Talking informally with office workers gathered in a corridor to greet him, Nixon, when talking about youth in college generally, and then protesters in particular, said, “…You see these bums, you know, blowing up the campuses…” Some newspapers carried Nixon’s comments as a separate story on May 1st, the day the Cambodia story had made front-page headlines. In the Milwaukee Journal of May 1, 1970, for example, the Cambodia incursion was the dominant front-page headline, but also just below the fold was a second headline, “Nixon Rips ‘Campus Bums’.” Other papers and newscasts also covered the president’s comment and it reverberated across the nation. As one account would later put it, the comment was like pouring gasoline on a fire. On May 5th, outside the morgue where he had identified the corpse of his daughter, Allison Krause, one of those killed at Kent Sate, Arthur Krause, her distraught and angry father, told TV and print reporters: “My daughter was not a bum… She felt that our crossing into Cambodia was wrong. Is this dissent a crime? Is this a reason for killing her? Have we come to such a state in this country that a young girl has to be shot because she disagrees deeply with the actions of her government?”

May 18, 1970: Newsweek made the Kent State shootings its cover story.
May 18, 1970: Newsweek made the Kent State shootings its cover story.
Two days after the Kent State incident, police wounded four demonstrators at the University of Buffalo.  On May 8th, some 100,000 protesters — angered over Kent State and the Cambodian invasion — gathered in Washington.  Another 150,000 protested in San Francisco.  Nationwide, four million students and 450 universities, colleges, and high schools would become involved in the student strike, which included mostly peaceful protests and walkouts.  However, on some campuses, ROTC buildings were attacked or set on fire, and 26 schools witnessed clashes between students and police.  National Guard units were mobilized on 21 campuses in 16 states.  Public opinion polls, meanwhile, supported Nixon’s actions, with 50 percent of the American public backing him in polls taken during the second week of May.  Fifty-eight percent blamed the students for what had occurred at Kent State.  In one pro-Nixon demonstration in New York City on May 8th, some construction workers supporting the President’s actions rioted and attacked demonstrating students.

     Following the Kent State tragedy there were extensive investigations that went on for years, with long-running legal proceedings and numerous books and articles written, some offering conspiracy theories.  The event was dissected from beginning to end to determine who was responsible, but debate continues to this day regarding what some believe are still unanswered questions (see “Sources” below for more detail & links).  But one notable reaction to the Kent State shootings came with the song “Ohio” by the rock group Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young — a song that reached the airwaves quite soon after the event.


Song History

Single sleeve for the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song , ‘Ohio’, with ‘Find the Cost of Freedom’ on B side.
Single sleeve for the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song , ‘Ohio’, with ‘Find the Cost of Freedom’ on B side.
     David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash — each a singer, songwriter and guitarist — had formed their group, “Crosby, Stills & Nash” in 1968-69.  Their debut album, Crosby, Stills & Nash, released in mid-1969, became quite popular among young listeners and especially on college campuses across the country.  The group became known for both their lyrics and melodic harmonies, and particularly the songs of that first album, such as, “Marrakesh Express,” “Suite For Judy Blue Eyes,” “Guinnevere,” “Wooden Ships,” and “Helplessly Hoping.”  Another song on that album, “Long Time Gone,” by David Crosby, was a response to the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.  “Marrakesh” and “Judy Blue Eyes” also became successful Top 30 singles.  By the summer of 1969, the group began touring and Neil Young, another singer-songwriter, had joined them.  Young would later write the song “Ohio.”

“Ohio”
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     By March 1970, now a foursome, Crosby Stills, Nash & Young (CSN&Y) released a second album, Déjà Vu.  In addition to having advance orders for more than 2 million copies (it eventually sold more than 7 million copies), this album included additional songs that marked the group as speaking for their generation and the unsettling times.  Among these was “Woodstock,” a song commemorating the giant gathering at the August 1969 music festival in New York’s Hudson Valley north of New York city ( “Woodstock” was written by singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell who performed her own somewhat different version).  “Teach Your Children,” was another “message” song from the Déjà Vu album.  Both became top 20 hits as singles.  Then came the Kent State shootings in early May 1970.

Two Famous Photos

     In May 1970, Howard Ruffner was a second year student at Kent State University majoring in broadcast communications.  Before attending Kent State, he had spent four years in the Air Force where he had learned photography.  At the university, Ruffner was on the staff of the Daily Kent Stater newspaper and had captured some of the events that occurred during the shootings on May 4, 1970.  One of his photographs ended up on the Life magazine cover above, with others used in the cover story that ran inside the magazine.  Of the students who suffered that day, Ruffner stated, “I saw their faces and I could feel their pain, and I took their pictures so that no one would ever forget what happened at Kent State and the trauma that it caused for our nation.”

     Another Kent Stater on May 4th, 1970 was John Filo, a young undergraduate working in the Kent State photo lab.  As the protest ensued that day, he decided to grab his camera and see if he could get an interesting picture.  He saw one student waving a black flag on the hillside, with the National Guard in the background.  He took that photograph, believing he had recorded the moment.  As he wandered through a parking lot where a lot of the students had gathered, the National Guard suddenly opened fire.  Filo thought they were shooting blanks, and started taking pictures.  A second later, he saw Mary Vecchio crying over the body of one of the students who had just been killed.  He took the picture.  A few hours later, he started to transmit the photos he had taken to the Associated Press from a small newspaper in nearby Pennsylvania.  The photograph won him a Pulitzer Prize.

     Neil Young by then had already demon- strated his singer-songwriter talents on previous work and he brought an important dimension to the group’s sound and message.  His song “Ohio,” about the Kent State shootings, captured some of the anger and frustration felt by many young people at that time.

     According to the story behind this song, Young was given an early copy of the Life magazine issue that had run the dramatic cover photo of a shot student being attended on its May 15th, 1970 issue (photo at top of page, above).  David Crosby had given him the magazine copy, and after Young looked at the photos and read the story, he reportedly disappeared for several hours, returning later with his song.

     The four musicians then rehearsed a version of the song which was then recorded on the evening of May 15th, 1970 at the Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles.  The foursome, with other back-up musicians, recorded it live in just a few takes.  During the same session they also recorded what would become the single’s B-side, Stephen Stills’ ode to the Vietnam war’s dead, “Find the Cost of Freedom.”

     The record was then mastered and rush-released by the Atlantic record label soon after its recording.  It was being sold on the market as a 45 rpm single in June and was being heard on the radio even before that, within weeks of the shootings.  But the new song wasn’t welcomed everywhere.  In some parts of the country it was banned from radio playlists — especially AM radio, the mainstream pop radio in those days.  The song was held off the air at a number of those stations because of it’s “anti-war” and “anti-Nixon” sentiments. 

Meanwhile, FM radio, then regarded as underground radio, played the song without hesitation.  In any case, the song’s lyrics — especially the refrain, “four dead in O-hi-o” — became a ringing anthem for a generation angered by the war and what had happened at Kent State.

“Ohio”
Lyrics by Neil Young

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down

Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.
Four dead in Ohio.
Four dead in Ohio…

[ fade…]
…How many more…?  Why?…

     Bill Halverson, who was the engineer in the studio for the recording of “Ohio,”and had worked with the group on their other music, later explained of the AM/FM radio issue: “… I do recall that AM wouldn’t play it, and it was very controversial that AM wouldn’t play it.  And FM, the underground — all the FM stations started playing it… And it got up in the 30s or so [on the music charts] just with FM play. …At that point, FM was pretty underground and AM was the deal.  But they tried to ban it.”

     In any event, “Ohio” entered the music charts on July 11th, 1970 and reached No. 14 at its peak, remaining in the Top 40 for about seven weeks that summer.


Presidential Commission

     Following the tragedy at Kent State University — and also at Jackson State College in Jackson, Mississippi, where two students were killed and at least twelve wounded during May 14th demonstrations that followed the Kent State shootings — President Nixon established the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest on June 13, 1970.  The Commission conducted a series of hearings and an investigation,  issuing its findings in a formal report September 1970. That report concluded the Kent State shootings were “unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.”  The report also added: “Even if the guardsmen faced danger, it was not a danger that called for lethal force.  The 61 shots by 28 guardsmen certainly cannot be justified…. The Kent State tragedy must mark the last time that, as a matter of course, loaded rifles are issued to guardsmen confronting student demonstrators.”

     Meanwhile, years later, Crosby, Stills, and Nash visited the Kent State campus on May 4, 1997, attending the 27th annual commemoration of the shootings.  When asked about the song “Ohio” on this occasion and why the group was attending the commemoration, Graham Nash responded:  “Four young men and women had their lives taken from them while lawfully protesting this outrageous government action.  We are going back [to Kent State] to keep awareness alive in the minds of all students, not only in America, but worldwide…to be vigilant and ready to stand and be counted… and to make sure that the powers of the politicians do not take precedent over the right of lawful protest.”  Crosby, Stills, and Nash performed “Ohio” at the end of the commemoration ceremony.


The CSN&Y Sound

Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, and David Crosby, on the cover of their 1969 album that helped advance the singer-songwriter genre of music in the 1970s.
Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, and David Crosby, on the cover of their 1969 album that helped advance the singer-songwriter genre of music in the 1970s.
     Even though they performed together as a group for only a few years, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had a significant impact on the music scene of the late 1960s and 1970s.  In 1969, their first album in particular, Crosby, Stills & Nash, proved very influential in advancing the singer-songwriter movement of that era, and helped define a kind of “California” or “soft rock” sound subsequently heard throughout the 1970s in groups such as The Eagles, Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac, and others.  The album has been rated among the top 300 all time by Rolling Stone, and it has been issued on compact disc three times: the mid-1980s, again in 1994, and most recently as an expanded edition in 2006.  Their second album as well, Déjà Vu, which was a No. 1 album at its release in March 1970, has also been named as one of the top albums of all time by Rolling Stone, VH-1, and others.

     CSN&Y’s “Ohio” is perhaps the most well-known song associated with the Kent State shootings.  However, at least a dozen other artists have made lesser-known Kent State tribute songs, including Dave Brubeck, the Beach Boys, Steve Miller, Bruce Springsteen, and Joe Walsh (see “artist tributes.”).

See also at this website, “Kent State Reaction,” a short story on the protest and I-5 freeway occupation by students at the University of Washington in Seattle upon learning of the Kent State shootings. For an excellent historical perspective on the Kent State shootings and Cambodia, public reaction at the time, and the political aftermath, see the 2015 PBS documentary, Kent State: The Day the ’60s Died. For additional stories at this website on politics see the “Politics & Culture” page, and for music, the “Annals of Music” page. Thanks for visiting – and if you like what you see here, please make a donation to support this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 13 July 2009
Last Update:  29 April 2015
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Four Dead in O-hi-o, 1970,”
PopHistoryDig.com, July 13, 2009.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

National Guard in position on the campus of Kent State University, early May 1970.
National Guard in position on the campus of Kent State University, early May 1970.
“Inquire, Learn, Reflect: May 4, 1970,” Kent State University Website with Links.

Kent State Shootings,” Wikipedia.org.

Photos – “Four Dead Students and Nine Injured,” May 1970.

I. F. Stone, The Killings at Kent State; How Murder Went Unpunished, New York: Vintage Books, 1970.

I. F. Stone, “Fabricated Evidence in the Kent State Killings”, The New York Review of Books, Vol. 15, No.10, December 3, 1970.

“At War with War” (cover story on student protest & Kent State shootings), Time, Monday, May 18, 1970.

Tear gas being fired on demonstrators at Kent State University, May 4, 1970.
Tear gas being fired on demonstrators at Kent State University, May 4, 1970.

“New Trial Called in Kent State Suit That Seeks Damages in ’70 Killings; Governor Told Not to Talk,” New York Times, Tuesday, September 13, 1977, p. 16.

“Ohio Approves $675,000 to Settle Suits in 1970 Kent State Shootings; Governor Rhodes and 27 National Guardsmen Offer Their Regrets for Deaths of 4 and Injuries to 9; Earlier Trial Finding Deep Emotions Over Years,” New York Times, Friday, January 5, 1979, p. A-12.

“May 1-4, 1970: Why and How It All Began.”

New York Times of May 5, 1970 with headline ‘4 Kent State Students Killed by Troops,’ and subhead, ‘8 Hurt as Shooting Follows Reported Sniping at Rally.’
New York Times of May 5, 1970 with headline ‘4 Kent State Students Killed by Troops,’ and subhead, ‘8 Hurt as Shooting Follows Reported Sniping at Rally.’
James Renner, “The Kent State Conspiracies: What Really Happened On May 4, 1970?”, Cleveland Free Times, Vol 14, No. 3, May 2006.

Ohio,” Wikipedia.org.

William A. Gordon, Four Dead in Ohio, North Ridge Books, 1995.

Photos from Kent State shootings, May 1970.

The Ohio Historical Society, “Kent State University: May 4, 1970,” Ohio Historical Marker, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio. See for example: “Kent State University Shooting 2.”

The Report of the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest, Wash., DC: U.S. Govern- ment Printing Office, September 1970.

The Parkersburg News of Parkersburg, West Virginia carried a somewhat different headline on the shootings, but also mentioned Cambodia in a top headline.
The Parkersburg News of Parkersburg, West Virginia carried a somewhat different headline on the shootings, but also mentioned Cambodia in a top headline.

Henry Diltz and Dave Zimmer, Crosby Stills & Nash: The Authorized Biography, St. Martin’s Press, 1984

“Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young,” in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, New York, 3rd Edition, 2001, pp. 224-225.

The Tony Bittick Interview: Text of Interview with Bill Halverson About the Recording of ‘Ohio’ and the Events at Kent State.

Scott Bills, Kent State/May 4: Echoes Through a Decade, Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1988.

National Geographic Channel documentary series, How It Was: Kent State Shootings, 2008.

May 15, 1970 headlines from Athens, Ohio, home to Ohio University, where demonstrations also occurred. Headline below photo notes Jackson, Miss. shootings. Front page photo, courtesy Ken Steinhoff.
May 15, 1970 headlines from Athens, Ohio, home to Ohio University, where demonstrations also occurred. Headline below photo notes Jackson, Miss. shootings. Front page photo, courtesy Ken Steinhoff.

Gary Tuchman, “Kent State Shootings Remembered,” CNN.com, May 4, 2000

Suzanne Goldenberg, Washington Bureau, “Tape Reveals Order’ to Shoot Vietnam Protesters; 37-Year-Old Recording of Kent State Killings Found,” The Guardian (U.K.), Wednesday, May 2, 2007.

Christopher Maag, “Kent State Tape Is Said to Reveal Orders,” New York Times, May 2, 2007.

Extensive On-Line Kent State University Photo Archive, at: University News Service, Photographs, April 30, 1970 – May 4, 1977 (bulk May 4, 1970).

“At War With War,” (cover story on student protest & Kent State shootings), Time, Monday, May. 18, 1970.

Ken Steinhoff, “Kent State: Never Forget,” Story & Photo Gallery.

Ken Steinhoff, “Kent State: ‘Never Forget’,” PalmBeachBikeTours.com, May 4, 2009.



 




“Orleans-to-Congress”
1972-2009

John Hall, center, a founding member of rock group Orleans,  on the cover of their 1976 album, ‘Waking & Dreaming’.
John Hall, center, a founding member of rock group Orleans, on the cover of their 1976 album, ‘Waking & Dreaming’.
     In 1972, John Hall was a founding member of the rock ‘n roll group Orleans.  Thirty-four years later he was elected to the United States Congress.

     Hall was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1948 and later lived many years in New York’s Hudson River Valley.  In high school he was three-time National Science Foun- dation scholar.  At Notre Dame University he studied physics, but later transferred to Loyola College.  After a time at Loyola, he left school to pursue a full-time career in music.  By 21 he was writing and composing music for Broadway and off-Broadway productions.  He then became a session musician and songwriter, spending time with artists such as Janis Joplin, Seals & Crofts, and Bonnie Raitt.  Then in January 1972, at about age 24, Hall became a founding member of Orleans, forming the group at Woodstock, New York in Ulster County.  Other members at the time included Wells Kelly and Larry Hoppen.  Lance Hoppen, Larry’s brother, joined the band later that year.  Another member Jerry Marotta, also joined later.  Hall served as the group’s songwriter and as one of its guitarists.

After his election to Congress in 2006, Rep. John Hall was soon engaged in the public policy process, including matters such as the war in Iraq.  He is shown here with Army General David Petraeus on a visit to Iraq in October 2007.
After his election to Congress in 2006, Rep. John Hall was soon engaged in the public policy process, including matters such as the war in Iraq. He is shown here with Army General David Petraeus on a visit to Iraq in October 2007.
     Orleans soon became a top 1970s American rock band turning out hits such as: “Dance with Me”(1975), “Still the One”  (1976), and “Love Takes Time” (1979).  Orleans had started out touring clubs and colleges in the northeast U.S.  However, the group soon had a recording contract with ABC Dunhill Records, releasing Orleans, a debut album in 1973.  Their first Billboard Hot 100 hit came in early 1975 with “Let There Be Music” on Asylum Records.  “Dance With Me” followed, rising to No. 6 on the pop charts.  “Dance With Me” placed the group in a “soft-rock” category, and they toured with Melissa Manchester, but also with bands such as Little Feat.

Orleans lineup in 1976-77, from left:  Wells Kelly, Larry Hoppen, Jerry Marotta, Lance Hoppen & John Hall.
Orleans lineup in 1976-77, from left: Wells Kelly, Larry Hoppen, Jerry Marotta, Lance Hoppen & John Hall.
 

     In 1976, another big hit came with “Still the One.”  The single peaked at No.5 on the charts as Orleans then did a major cross-country tour with Jackson Browne.  The ABC television network, meanwhile, made “Still The One” its theme song for a 1977 promotional campaign, giving the song continuing and wide exposure to a large national audience.  The song was also used in TV advertising spots and movie soundtracks.  However, within Orleans, some internal stresses emerged, and John Hall left the group to pursue a solo career.  He formed the John Hall Band and released two albums, but this venture disbanded after limited success.

Celebrities in
Politics

     This story is one in an occasional series that will periodically feature famous people — sports stars, Holly- wood actors, musicians, TV personali- ties, and others — who are not initially involved in politics, but who later, given their fame or other public notoriety, enter or influence politics at the national and/or state levels.  Among those profiled in this series will be those who run for and/or attain political office — from U.S. President, Congress, and the U.S. Senate, to various state-level races and governorships — as well as those who may receive political appointments, judgeships, ambassadorships, and other similar posts.  Celebrities who rise to positions of national political influence, though unelected, may also appear in this series, as well as notable leaders in other countries who come to their posts via celebrity or other media fame.



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Orleans – “Still the One”

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John Hall, Activist 

     John Hall, meanwhile, during his music career,  had become active in the anti-nuclear movement, co-founding Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE).  He co-produced “No Nukes” concerts that were held in Madison Square Garden in the late 1970s.  He was also involved in successfully fighting a proposed nuclear power plant site on the Hudson River in Greene County, New York. Living in Saugerties, New York, he co-founded Saugerties Concerned Citizens and helped write the town’s first zoning law.  When Ulster County announced plans for a 200-acre solid waste dump to be sited on a historic farm, Hall led the opposition.  By 1989, Hall was elected as an Ulster County legislator.  In the late 1990s he was twice elected to the Saugerties Board of Education, later becoming Board president.

     During this time, however, Hall had not abandoned his music.  He continued writing songs for other artists and reunited with Orleans in 1990, 1996, and 2000.  In 2005, he released Rock Me on the Water, an album of songs inspired by an extensive sailing trip he’d taken.  He also formed another band named Gulf Stream Night.  But politics soon became John Hall’s central gig.

John Hall, running for the U.S. Congress.
John Hall, running for the U.S. Congress.


Bid For Congress

     In 2006, Hall set his sights on higher public office, then concerned for the future of the Hudson River Valley and disillusioned with the war in Iraq.  He ran in the Democratic primary for a seat in the U.S. Congress representing New York’s 19th congressional district.  He won the primary with 48 percent in a four-way race and then faced incumbent Republican Sue W. Kelly in the fall elections.  In October, the New York Times — noting he was a musician, but “not a posturer or political dabbler” — endorsed Hall for Congress.  “His platform is ambitious and coherent,” said the Times, “with calls for universal health coverage, a return to fiscal discipline and a full-bore national effort to achieve energy independence. He blends a deep-blue idealism with a crisp command of details…”

     However, his opponent, Republican Sue Kelly, had been a popular, six-term incumbent, who was well funded in her races.  She had won handedly in 2004 with 73 percent of the vote.  Nevertheless, Hall defeated Kelly in November 2006 with 51 percent of the vote, beating her in her home county of Westchester to help pull off an upset victory.  He was only the third Democrat elected in the district since WWI. 

An enthusiastic John Hall supporter.
An enthusiastic John Hall supporter.
     John Hall was helped in his election win by 1,200 volunteers who did door-to-door work and manned phone banks prior to the election.  Some of Hall’s old rock ‘n roll fans turned out as well — a few amazed at the novelty of voting for a former rock star.  Offered one New York blogger at “Fred Sez,”Hembeck.com, in the run up to the 2006 election: “Tomorrow, I get to do something I’ve never had a chance to do before: vote for someone who I first saw perform live on stage back in the mid-seventies, and then whose records I bought…”  But there was also a separate $500,000 campaign by businessman Adam R. Rose that also contributed to Hall’s victory.  Rose, an openly gay real-estate developer bankrolled the Majority Action group which ran negative advertisements against Hall’s opponent, Sue Kelly, because of her support for the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would ban same-sex marriage.
Pete Seeger, Jackson Browne, and John Hall playing some music.
Pete Seeger, Jackson Browne, and John Hall playing some music.


Muscians Help

The Basketball Diaries full      In his campaign, Hall also had the support of fellow musicians, some of whom helped raise money for him (see box below).  Others gave concerts on his behalf.  Singer Jackson Browne, for example, gave concerts for Hall.  Browne did four benefit concerts for Hall in New York, June 2-4, 2006, which also included Dar Williams and Pete Seeger.  On August 20, 2006, Browne again performed on behalf of Hall in New York city, along with Rosanne Cash, Steve Earle and Nanci Griffith.


Rockers for Hall
2006

     In the spring of 2006, musicians Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, and Bonnie Raitt, wrote a fundraising letter on behalf of John Hall’s bid for Congress.  Here’s the text of that letter:

Dear Friend,

     Our longtime friend, fellow No Nukes/MUSE artist, John Hall, whom you may also remember as a leader of Orleans (Dance With Me, Still the One) is running for Congress in the 19th District of upstate New York. John’s been a lifelong activist and right out of the starting gate, is emerging as a very welcome and successful candidate in debates and testing so far. He’s up against a very tough contender, the six-term incumbent Republican (and Tom DeLay crony) Rep. Sue Kelly, and of course needs to raise as much money as possible early in this primary race.

     A bunch of us MUSE folks and other music industry friends have already lent our support and I’m writing to ask if you would consider contributing to help get John Hall elected. John is extremely smart, articulate, committed and in our minds, would absolutely bring a much needed fresh and clearheaded voice to our muddled political quagmire. Please spread the word if you agree and thank you so much for your support.

     You can check out his positions and background at http://www.johnhallforcongress.com/, contribute on line at http://www.actblue.com/page/johnhallforcongress/ or send your contributions to “John Hall For Congress,” PO Box 377, Dover Plains, NY 12522.

     As you may know the limit for personal contributions during the primary period is $2100 (MARCH 31st is the end of the 1st Quarter FEC filing period so act quickly please), and an additional $2100 may be sent to his General Election Escrow Account, which will be returned with interest if he does not win the nomination.

     We think it’s fantastic that John has decided to set aside his music career for the time being and dedicate himself to politics for the better of us all.

     Thank you for your support. We can make a difference,

     Bonnie Raitt, Graham Nash and Jackson Browne

P.S. Any amount that you contribute will help. If 2000 people send $50 each, John’s campaign will receive a $100,000 boost. This will keep him in the game to carry the message of peace and diplomacy, economic justice, government and corporate accountability, healthcare for all, environmental protection and alternative energy.


     Once in Congress, John Hall served as a progressive Democrat.  He became a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and in his first term, among others things, he voted to raise the minimum wage and supported federal funding of stem cell research.  He also became engaged in the daily work of serving his constituents on a variety of fronts, from veterans’ rights to help for public schools.  Nor did Hall forget the issues in his home state that had brought him into politics, calling for closing the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, for example, and continuing that fight and others in Congress.


Nuke “Bailouts”

From left: Bonnie Raitt, Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) & Graham Nash, with Rep. John Hall at news conference on Capitol Hill, Oct. 23, 2007, urging Congress not to approve federal loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants. Not shown, Jackson Browne.
From left: Bonnie Raitt, Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) & Graham Nash, with Rep. John Hall at news conference on Capitol Hill, Oct. 23, 2007, urging Congress not to approve federal loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants. Not shown, Jackson Browne.
     In October 2007, during his first term, Hall also took part in a gathering of rock ‘n roll artists who came to town to lobby against federal loan guarantees for nuclear power plants.  In his younger days in the late 1970s, in the wake of the nuclear plant accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, Hall had joined with rock musicians Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and Graham Nash and others to organize the “No Nukes” concerts at Madison Square Garden that helped stir public opposition to nuclear power at that time.   In October 2007, these musicians and others reconvened to hold a press conference and lobby Congress to oppose the loan guarantee provisions in a pending energy bill.  “Thirty years ago, we felt that this monster was dead,” Graham Nash told an Associated Press reporter.  On Capitol Hill in Washington, the musicians warned that a Senate version of the energy bill contained the loan guarantees provisions, which they called a “virtual blank check from taxpayers” to help build more nuclear plants.  They noted, however, that the bill as a whole contained some very good provisions, including those for renewable energy sources and improved energy efficiency standards.

John Hall with reporter in New York.
John Hall with reporter in New York.
     The musicians’ group had also launched a petition drive and a YouTube music video as part of their campaign.  A number of environmental groups lent their support, along with dozens of other music artists and rock banks, including R.E.M., Ben Harper, Maroon 5, Pearl Jam, Patti Smith and Wynton Marsalis.  Their petition drive had collected more than 120,000 signatures to present to Congress.  The Nuclear Energy Institute, meanwhile, dismissed the effort, saying nuclear energy was on the brink of a revival due to increased energy demands and concerns about global warming.  “It’s almost as if they’re in a time capsule [from the 1970s] and they’ve been transported forward,” said Steve Kerekes of Nuclear Energy Institute.  But Reps. Edward Markey (D-MA) and John Hall said they expected that the musicians group would provide more positive lobbying muscle on the energy bill.  The nuclear power industry continued to push Congress to expand federal loan guarantees for building new nuclear power plants.
Hall meeting with constituents.
Hall meeting with constituents.


Targeted in ’08

     In the 2008 election campaign, meanwhile, John Hall drew numerous potential challengers for his re-election bid, including former Rep. Sue Kelly and Emily Pataki, daughter of former popular Republican Governor George Pataki.  At one, point, Republicans had sought former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer to oppose Hall, but Fleischer declined.  Hall had also been targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee in the fall election.  A Republican newcomer, Kieran Lalor, became Hall’s opponent.  On November 4, 2008, John Hall was re-elected, defeating Lalor with 58 percent of the vote.

Rep. John Hall addressing constituents’ questions.
Rep. John Hall addressing constituents’ questions.
     Hall’s Congressional website as of July 2009 notes that he opposes privatization of Social Security, and supports a swift and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq combined with a renewed emphasis on diplomacy.  He supports intensive efforts to produce more renewable energy, better funding of veterans’ programs, universal health care, and full funding of the No Child Left Behind legislation.  Hall currently serves on three House Committees — Transportation and Infrastructure, Veterans’ Affairs, and The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.  Hall is married to Pamela Bingham Hall, a graduate of Vassar College and an attorney who has worked as General Counsel to the Tennessee State Treasurer and as Tennessee Assistant State Attorney General.

Man-Thing movie download      One final item on a musical note.  During the national presidential campaign in 2008, Hall took a shot at Republican Presidential candidate John McCain for using the Orleans song “Still The One” in his presidential campaign without asking for permission.  Four years earlier as well, in late October 2004, Hall had criticized the campaign of President George W. Bush for using the same Orleans song at his campaign events without permission (Bush had a similar problem with a Tom Petty tune).  In the case of Bush, formal cease-and-desist letters went out to the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney ’04 Campaign and the song was later dropped from the campaign’s playlist.

     Stay tuned to this website for future stories on politics, music, and culture.

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______________________________

Date Posted:  10 July 2009
Last Update:  10 July 2009
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Orleans-To-Congress, 1972-2009,”
PopHistoryDig.com, July 10, 2009.

______________________________





Awake ipod


Sources, Links & Additional Information

Website of U.S. Rep. John Hall, U.S. Congress.

Orleans,” Wikipedia.com.

John Hall,” Wikipedia.com.

“An Endorsement for Congress,”(Westchester), New York Times, October 22, 2006.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, “He’s Still the One,” The Nation, Wednesday, October 25, 2006.

John Hall for Congress.

Andrew Miga, Associated Press, “Rockers Renew 1970s Anti-Nuke Theme,” USA Today, October 23, 2007.

Harvey Wasserman, “No-Nukers Sing a New Green Tune,” The Nation.com, November 9, 2007.

Margaret Menge, “Cornwall Lays KJ Pipeline Issue at Feet of Freshman Rep. John Hall,” Cornwall LocalOnline.com, Saturday, February 23, 2008.

Union of Concerned Scientists, “Massive Federal Loan Guarantees for New Nuclear Power Plants Would Put Taxpayers, Ratepayers at Risk,”March 4, 2009.

Abby Livingston, NBC / Domenico Montanaro, First Read, “Rep. To McCain: Stop Using My Song!,” MSNBC.com, Friday, June 13, 2008.




“I Won’t Back Down”
1989-2008

Cover of Paul Zollo’s 2005 book, “Conversations With Tom Petty,” Omnibus Press, 284pp.
Cover of Paul Zollo’s 2005 book, “Conversations With Tom Petty,” Omnibus Press, 284pp.
     “I Won’t Back Down” is the first single from Tom Petty’s first solo album, Full Moon Fever, released in 1989.  The song was written by Petty and his writing partner at the time, Jeff Lynne.  It rose to No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 single’s  chart.  It also appeared on Billboard’s mainstream and modern tracks charts, which rank radio play. The song’s popularity  helped send Full Moon Fever to the multi-million-selling sales club.  By October 2000, the album had sold more than five million copies.


A Fighter’s Song

     “I Won’t Back Down” says it all in its title; it’s a fighter’s message;  he’s standing his ground and he won’t back down.  The lyrics — shown below in “Sources” — suggest a struggle against the odds, whatever they might be; and a determined stand against the powers that be, whoever they are.  And Petty’s defiant tone in the performance provides just the right touch of attitude.

Music Player
 “I Won’t Back Down”

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     The song should resonate with anyone who has been wronged, as well as those who might be out to prove a point.  It has a kind of universal and personal appeal.  Plus, it’s good rock ‘n roll.  It’s also a perfect song for a political campaign.  And not surprisingly, more than a few politicians — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents — have all used it, especially in the 1990s and early 2000s.


The Politics of Song

     Politicians, especially in recent years, have begun scouring the pop, country, rap and hip hop music charts for tunes that strike a chord with their would-be supporters.  They “borrow” these tunes and use them as theme music during their campaigns, playing them before speeches and at rally locations on the campaign trail.  Sometimes, however, they don’t bother asking the artist’s permission to use the songs, or acquire all the requisite legal blessings.  Such “oversight” can sometimes lead to embarrassing situations — for both candidate and artist.

     Happily, for most of those using Tom Petty’s song in various campaigns over the last decade or so, there have only been only one or two of those awkward situations.  Notably in this category, however, was the year 2000 presidential campaign of then Texas Governor W. Bush.  Bush had used “I Won’t Back Down” at campaign events during the 2000 race, becoming practically “a fixture” at those events, according to one report.  Tom Petty wasn’t happy about that. In early 2000, Tom Petty’s publisher sent George Bush a “cease and desist” letter to stop his campaign from using the song. So, he had his publisher send Bush a “cease and desist” letter.  That meant Bush was compelled to stop using the song at his campaign events.  Petty did not want the use of his song to be construed as an endorsement of candidate Bush.

Young Tom Petty.
Young Tom Petty.
     Petty’s publisher, Randall Wixen of Wixen Music Publishing Inc., wrote to Bush in early February 2000 telling him to “immediately cease and desist all uses of the song in connection with your campaign.”  Wixen said in his letter to Bush that the use of the song “creates, either intentionally or unintentionally, the impression that you and your campaign have been endorsed by Tom Petty, which is not true.” 

     About a week later, Michael Toner, a lawyer for Bush’s campaign, wrote back to Wixen, saying:  “We do not agree that the mere playing or use of a particular song at a campaign event connotes any impression, either intentionally or unintentionally, of endorsement.” 

Nevertheless, Toner confirmed that the Bush campaign would not use the song at any future campaign events. “So we backed down,” said Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett, jokingly, to reporter Jake Tapper, then covering the issue for Salon.com.

 

Dems Like Tune

U.S. Senate candidate Jim Webb at an October 2006 campaign stop in Annandale, Virginia. Photo-Brendan Smialowski/Getty.
U.S. Senate candidate Jim Webb at an October 2006 campaign stop in Annandale, Virginia. Photo-Brendan Smialowski/Getty.
     On the Democratic side of the aisle, a number of candidates — “fighters” all  — had used Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” in their political campaigns.  Virginia Democrat Jim Webb, a Vietnam Vet and former Secretary of the Navy who mounted a pugnacious, reform-minded run to win a U.S. Senate seat in 2006, used the Petty song in his campaign.  On November 3rd, 2006, right before the election, Webb’s campaign staged a lively outdoor rally with prominent Democrats at Virginia Union University in Richmond.  At that rally, Webb took to the stage to the beat of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”  Webb won the race over  Republican incumbent George Allen.

     Another U.S. Senator in 2006, Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey, during his re-election bid, made “I Wont’ Back Down” his campaign’s theme song.  It could be heard playing on sound systems from schools to senior centers all across the state.  It was played wherever Menendez appeared, usually as he entered the room or took the stage.  In some cases, the song was played live by a local band rather than the pre-recorded Tom Petty version.

Senator Menendez campaigning in Trenton, NJ, October 2006. (Photo, Sylwia Kapuscinski/Getty)
Senator Menendez campaigning in Trenton, NJ, October 2006. (Photo, Sylwia Kapuscinski/Getty)
     In West Deptford, NJ that fall, a local group of senior musicians called The Entertainers was used — four guys that had been playing local gigs for seven years.  When the Menendez campaign told the band the Petty song was the song they would be using, the band leader had never heard of it.  He then ran out and bought the CD, found the lyrics online, and had The Entertainers rehearse it briefly before Menendez’s appearance.  Later that same day, as Menendez was joined by former President Bill Clinton at Essex County College in Newark, the Tom Petty version was back on the sound system.  Menendez was 52 at the time of his re-election bid.  He was being challenged by Republican  Thomas Keane, Jr., a state senator and son of former governor and 9-11 Commission member Thomas Keane.  Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, had previously served as a school board member, mayor and state legislator before being elected to Congress in 1992.  In January 2006, he was appointed by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine to fill the Senate seat vacated by Corzine to serve as Governor.  Menendez then won the seat in the general election that fall, becoming New Jersey’s first elected Hispanic senator.  In 2006, he prevailed over Keane and was re-elected to a second term.  Tom Petty’s tune, no doubt, played at his victory party.
Cover of Brooke Masters’ 2006 book on Eliot Spitzer.
Cover of Brooke Masters’ 2006 book on Eliot Spitzer.


Some “Backing Down”

     Sometimes, however, the political candidates using a particular song come to bad end — certainly, no fault of the song’s artist.  In two cases where the Petty song was used prominently in campaigns there came a bit of irony, as the candidates in these instances — both fighters in the populist mold — would unfortunately, “back down.”  One was the promising New York Democrat and progressive, Eliot Spitzer, who had used “I Won’t Back Down” in launching his gubernatorial bid and throughout his campaign.  The song had played prominently in Buffalo as Spitzer launched his bid, and it was frequently heard on the campaign trail as well.

 Other Venues

     “I Won’t Back Down” has also been heard in other prominent venues, some political. After Al Gore conceded the 2000 presidential election to George Bush, Tom Petty and other musicians attended a gathering of supporters at Gore’s Vice Presidential home in Washington. Petty performed the song for Gore and his supporters at the gathering.

     Petty also played the song as part of the September 21, 2001 benefit telethon for the victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Nearly 60 million people in the U.S. watched that televised special, which included celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Cruise. The song became a bit of a patriotic anthem after the 9-11 attacks. “I Won’t Back Down” was also one of four songs Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers performed during the 2008 Super Bowl halftime show.

Spitzer, as New York  Attorney General, had  come on like gangbusters, taking on the powerful at every turn, even on Wall Street.  And if ever there was a guy who wasn’t going to “back down,” it was Spitzer through and through, with his sights set on Washington and bigger things ahead.  But alas, it was Spitzer’s personal peccadilloes and call-girl revelations that brought the later-elected New York Governor down.

     A somewhat similar case was that of the formerly, much-admired Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards, who also cultivated the image of a fighter.  Edwards speeches were filled with references to fighting corporations and American revolutionaries, often urging his listeners to rise up against special interests.  Through 2007 and 2008, Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” could be heard in a repertoire of Edwards campaign songs that fit his themes and underlined his message.  In gearing up for the New Hampshire primary in August 2007, for example, Edwards spoke in the town of Hookset.  After the event, the campaign played “I Won’t Back Down” as Edwards shook hands of supporters on the way to boarding his “Fighting for One America” campaign bus.  However, many months later, after the primaries had ended, Edwards’ revelations about a campaign relationship outside of his marriage helped take him out of the national political arena.


“Defiance” Music?

Hillary Clinton celebrates her April 2008 win in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary with Governor Ed Rendell.
Hillary Clinton celebrates her April 2008 win in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary with Governor Ed Rendell.
     Then comes Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton during her hard-fought 2007-08 Democratic presidential primary campaign.  In late April 2008, after she had won the Pennsylvania primary, but was nevertheless being urged to drop out of the race given an uphill delegate climb, she emerged at her victory party to Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”  And again in June, after a Hillary speech in New York that was not a formal concession speech, “I Won’t Back Down” was piped out over the sound system.  Was the candidate sending out a little message of defiance here? Certainly it appeared that way to a few reporters.  Nothing wrong with that, however.  At least she kept them guessing for a time.

     Political candidates come and go, of course, but the music lives on to play in many other battles. Doubtless, Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” will be heard in other campaigns to come.  And that’s not a bad thing, as we need all the fighters we can get  — or at the very least, those who want to try.  So let the music play — especially that which helps bring more folks into the political process.

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     See also at this website, for example, “I’m A Dole Man” (music & politics), “Four Dead in O-hi-o” (protest music), and “Only a Pawn in Their Game“(civil rights related).  For other story choices on politics and culture please see that category page.  Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle.

_______________________________

Date Posted:    7 March 2009
Last Update:   18 June 2015
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “I Won’t Back Down, 1989-2008,”
PopHistoryDig.com, March 7, 2009.

_______________________________

 

 

 

Sources, Links & Additional Information

Cover of Tom Petty’s 1989 album that includes  ‘I Won’t Back Down’ track. (also great Versa-Climber / work-out music!).
Cover of Tom Petty’s 1989 album that includes ‘I Won’t Back Down’ track. (also great Versa-Climber / work-out music!).
Frank Bruni, “The 2000 Campaign: Campaign Notebook; A Wistful Bush Reflects On Hearth and Home,” New York Times, Friday, January 28, 2000.

Randall D. Wixen, Wixen Music Publishing, Inc., Calabasas, CA, Letter to Governor George W. Bush, Austin, TX, Re: Tom Petty/”I Won’t Back Down”, February 4, 2000.

Michael E. Toner, General Counsel, George W. Bush for President, Austin, TX, Letter to Randall D. Wixen, Wixen Music Publishing, Inc., Calabasas, CA, Re: Tom Petty/”I Won’t Back Down”, February 11, 2000.

Jake Tapper, “Don’t Do Me Like That: Tom Petty Tells George W. Bush to ‘Back Down’ From Using one of Petty’s Songs at his Events,” Salon.com, September 16, 2000.

Patrick Healy, “Democracy in Action,” New York Times, May 30, 2006.

Andrea Bernstein, “Spitzer Bus Tour Is Unofficial Campaign Kick-Off,” WNYC.org, Radio & print report, June 3, 2006.

David W. Chen, with reporting by Jonathan Miller & Nate Schweber, “As Expected, New Jersey Primaries Create Senate Race Between Kean and Menendez,” New York Times, June 7, 2006.

Cynthia Burton, “Menendez: He Has Risen Despite Defying Alliances,”Philadelphia Inquirer October 15, 2006.

“I Won’t Back Down”
Tom Petty & Jeff Lynne

Well I won’t back down,
no I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down

Gonna stand my ground,
won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from
draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground,
and I won’t back down

Chorus:
Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down.

Well I know what’s right,
I got just one life
In a world that keeps on
pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground,
and I won’t back down

Hey baby there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
________________________
Note: song is longer than appears when full
chorus & recurring refrains are added.

Todd Jackson and Michael Sluss, “Senate Hopefuls Still Pounding the Pavement; George Allen Gets an Endorsement and James Webb Trots out Some Democrat Heavyweights,” Roanoke.com, of The Roanoke Times, November 3, 2006.

David W. Chen, “A Fight Song Comes Alive,” New York Times, November 5, 2006.

Peter Nicholas, Edwards Levels Attack on Clinton-era White House,” Los Angeles Times, August 24, 2007, p. A-12.

Adam Nagourney, “Do You Know the Words to the Edwards Fight Song?,” The Caucus Blog, New York Times, December 19, 2007.

Adam Nagourney, “On the Trail: The Edwards Playlist,”New York Times, December 20, 2007.

Sarah Wheaton, “Accompaniments; Theme Songs and Others,” New York Times, February 16, 2008

Imprint ipod Gail Collins, “Hillary’s Smackdown,” New York Times, April 24, 2008.

 Kleinheider, “That Ain’t Any Kind Of Concession Speech I Ever Heard Of,” NashvillePost.com, June 3, 2008.

“I Won’t Back Down,” SongFacts.com.

“I Won’t Back Down,”Wikipedia.org.

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, United States Senate.

U.S. Senator Jim Webb, United States Senate.

“Eliot Spitzer,” Times Topics, New York Times.

“John Edwards,” Times Topics, New York Times.