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Basslines and Protest Signs

Basslines and Protest Signs Part 43: Primary Concerns

The Strokes (photo: Roger Woolman)

When The Strokes announced that they would be performing at Bernie Sanders New Hampshire rally, it pretty much confirmed the senator’s standing as the rock & roll candidate. In a world where, most agree, there are far too many old white men in positions of power, it’s perhaps surprising — and indicative of just how refreshingly progressive Sanders’ platform is — that he’s the darling (the generator of excitement) of the youth at present.

Bernie x Strokes poster by Kii Arens

“We are honored to be associated with such a dedicated, diligent, and trustworthy patriot—and fellow native New Yorker!” The Strokes’ lead singer Julian Casablancas told Spin. “As the only truly non-corporate candidate, Bernie Sanders represents our only chance to overthrow corporate power and help return America to democracy. This is why we support him.”

It’s fun to know who the musicians that we like endorse and it’s often reassuring to know that, even if they’re opting for a different candidate than us, their reasoning is just. Of course, the opposite can happen. The list of musicians endorsing Trump has a few names on there *cofKANYEcof* that may upset contemporary music fans. How we process that is down to the individual. But in many cases, it can be heartwarming to hear our musicians express empathy.

Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend had already performed for Sanders, at the Iowa caucuses, highlighting his hip factor. It’s not a bad wave to have on your back, although it’s worth remembering that the public endorsement of pop and rap giants Beyoncé and Jay-Z ultimately didn’t swing the 2016 election in Hillary Clinton’s favor (popular vote aside). 

But still, the list of musicians who have endorsed Sanders’ 2020 presidential bid is long and distinguished, featuring Cardi B, Best Coast, Jackson Browne, Brandi Carlile, Miley Cyrus, Deerhoof, Kim Gordon, Ariana Grande, Norah Jones, Killer Mike, Lizzo, Stephen Malkmus, Mannequin Pussy, Vic Mensa, Jason Mraz, Portugal. The Man, The New Power Generation, Pussy Riot, Sacred Reich, Serj Tankian, Tony! Toni! Tone!, Jack White, The Wonder Years, Young the Giant, and many more.

David Crosby (photo: Ralph PH)

Joe Biden isn’t faring so well when it comes to musical endorsements. In fact, singer and actress Rita Wilson is the only vaguely musical “notable” on Biden’s list, alongside her husband Tom Hanks (plus George RR Martin of Game of Thrones fame and director Rob Reiner).

Mayor Pete Buttigieg fares a little better — he has the endorsement of The Byrds/Crosby Stills & Nash man David Crosby, plus Ben Harper and Mandy Moore. He also has Robert De Niro’s vote, which is not for nothing. Also on Mayor Pete’s list is Bradley Whitford, who helped portray an idyllic reality in Sorkin’s The West Wing. He must know what he’s talking about, right?

“My favorite is Mayor Pete,” David Crosby told Yahoo Entertainment. “I love the guy. He’s the smartest man I’ve ever seen in politics ever, of all. He’s smarter than all the rest of them put together. He’s brilliant, and he’s honest, and he’s dedicated.”

Melissa Etheridge (photo: Andrew Olivo Parodi)

Elizabeth Warren has a couple of big guns in her corner, including drag queen Shea Couleé, singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge, R&B star John Legend, Ted Leo and Aimee Mann

“Elizabeth Warren understands the LGBTQ community and the needs we have,” Etheridge said in a statement which she tweeted on October 10. “On this National Coming Out Day I am officially pledging my support for her candidacy for president. Let’s move forward with the woman that has a plan for our future.”

After pledging his support for Warren, John Legend used Twitter to scold followers of Sanders, often dubbed “Bernie Bros.”

“Some of you Bernie supporters do quite the disservice to your candidate, who seems to be a great human being. Try not to drive people away with your nastiness. I will happily vote for him if he wins the primary. Chill.”

Michael Bloomberg’s list of musical endorsements is short but notable — John Mellencamp. “The stakes are too high to not nominate the candidate who will take the fight directly to Trump,” the blue collar rocker said in a statement. “From small towns to big cities, Mike Bloomberg has the experience to represent all Americans.”

Tulsi Gabbard has jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding on side. “I just donated…I can stand behind this human for REAL…I usually don’t post about this kind of thang, BUT,  will you help put @TulsiGabbard on the presidential debate stage?” she tweeted in May 2019.

No musicians on Amy Klobuchar’s official list, though she can count noted activist and actress Jane Fonda among her fans. Andrew Yang, who pulled out of the primaries at the time of writing, has a wonderfully eclectic group on his side that includes Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, electronic musician Zhu, veteran rappers Eric B & Rakim, r&b/soul star Anita Baker and, GET THIS, The Fat Boys. Who even knew they were still around to endorse anyone — nevermind to get mentioned on official political lists.

Yang joined Cuomo on stage to help him sing the Weezer classic “Say it Ain’t So” at an Iowa rally in November, which is admittedly pretty damn cool.

As for Deval Patrick, Tom Steyer, and Michael Bennet, we can’t find any evidence on notable musical endorsers. And of course, none of this means anything beyond a bit of fun. In reality, deciding who gets your vote based on who has the coolest musical followers is no system for smart people. 

Musicians have a right to an opinion, just as the rest of us do. And they have a right to publicly state it to their many social media followers. After that, it’s up to us what we do with it.

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