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Why Do The Trumps Keep Insulting Tom Petty’s Memory?

[Photo by: musicisentropy/Wikicom]

This week, it was revealed that Lara Trump, wife of Donald’s son Eric and definitely not a singer, recorded a country version of the Tom Petty classic “I Won’t Back Down.” And look, in the interests of open-mindedness, of balance, and, honestly, of voyeurism, we had to have a listen.

Fuck.Ing. Hell. It’s atrocious. This thing is both flatter and more unfortunate to happen upon than roadkill. It’s a misguided mess, and it should never have been allowed to happen.

It’s worse, of course, because the Petty estate have made their feelings towards the Trumps, and Donald specifically, very, very clear. In 2020, the estate issued a cease and desist over Trump’s use of that same song at a rally.

“Trump was in no way authorized to use this song to further a campaign that leaves too many Americans and common sense behind,” read a statement signed by Adria, Annakim, Dana and Jane Petty. “Both the late Tom Petty and his family firmly stand against racism and discrimination of any kind. Tom Petty would never want a song of his used for a campaign of hate. He liked to bring people together. Tom wrote this song for the underdog, for the common man and for EVERYONE.

“We want to make it clear that we believe everyone is free to vote as they like, think as they like, but the Petty family doesn’t stand for this. We believe in America, and we believe in democracy. But Donald Trump is not representing the noble ideals of either. We would hate for fans that are marginalized by this administration to think we were complicit in this usage. Concurrently, we have issued an official cease and desist notice to the Trump campaign.”

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As reported by the Guardian in 2020, “Other musicians have attempted to prevent the Trump campaign from playing their music at his events. Neil Young said in 2015 that Trump had not been permitted to use ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ in his presidential campaign announcement. Rihanna sent a cease and desist letter over the use of her music at ‘one of those tragic rallies’.”

So three years later, here we are again. If you are part of Petty’s estate you would have to wonder, why won’t the Trumps leave Tom alone? Let the legendary artist rest in peace. But no, they have to keep dragging his memory through the dirt. 

“Is this a cheap move by Lara Trump?” asked journalist Ed Krassenstein on Twitter/X. “Tom Petty’s family has asked Trump to stop playing ‘I Won’t Back Down’ and other Tom Petty music at Trump rallies. Now Lara Trump has gone ahead and created a country music version of the hit song and she plans to release it next week.”

One also wonders how Lara Trump obtained the rights to cover the song when the estate has such strong feelings. Presumably, the license is mechanical, so she would only have to pay but not get permission. Still, it seems remarkably disrespectful and in bad taste.

“Why would anyone even want to sing or play a song when the original band/singer is so forcefully against you? From a self-respect level, it makes no sense,” read one reply.

Apparently, Lara isn’t happy, though; she tweeted (or X’d — who fucking knows anymore) that her version of “I Won’t Back Down” can’t be found on Apple Music. It could be that the app has some sort of quality control measure and if so, they’re doing God’s work.

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Eric backed up his wife’s claim with a post that is as full of typos as one might expect from the man with a face like a Mike Judge character.

“Breaking: Apple appears to be viscously [sic] shadow banning Lara Trump’s new song, which immediately upon release, was 31st on the ITunes [SIC] charts. Lara’s name, when typed in full, is hardly viable [SIC] and can only be found below ‘Fake News II.’ The song itself is unsearchable.”

He was accidentally right — the Trumps do have a very viscous quality, and Lara’s song certainly isn’t viable.

Look, if Lara Trump had a great voice and she recorded a lovely version of Petty’s song, we’d admit as much. But we would still believe that that cover version, clearly against the estate’s wishes, is in bad taste. It just so happens that the song is in bad taste, AND it’s total garbage.

The Trumps aren’t the first Republicans to try to use the tune; George W. Bush used it at a 2000 campaign event, and Petty sent a Cease and Desist letter to him too. Later, after Al Gore conceded the election to Bush, Petty played the song at Gore’s home.

Democrat Jim Webb used the song on the campaign trail to be one of Virginia’s Senators in 2006, and Hilary Clinton used it on the presidential trail. 

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After the free and fair election of 2020 saw Joe Biden proclaimed President-Elect, he and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris played the song at their victory speech in Wilmington, DE. Petty’s family wrote to say that they were touched.

So Petty and his family have made it very clear where they stand politically. Their colors have been well and truly nailed to the mast. And hey, this works both ways. If a Democrat wanted to use Ted Nugent’sWango Tango” at a rally or cover Kid Rock’sBawitdaba”, I’d advise against it for all sorts of reasons. 

The legalities of it are up to the estate and their lawyers to sort out. For now, we should just continue not listening to a terrible version of an amazing song.

Tom Petty photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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