John Hall, a former Democratic county legislator in upstate New York, co-wrote the song and recorded it with his band Orleans in 1976. He complained Friday morning about the campaign’s use of the song at the president’s events.
The cheery pop tune opened and ended a Bush campaign rally in New Hampshire Friday, then was to have vanished from the political playlist.
“Out of deference to Mr. Hall’s views, the song will no longer be played,” Bush campaign spokeswoman Nicolle Devenish said. She said the song had been included in a catalog of music that the campaign’s licensing company used to provide music for events.
Hours after she spoke, however, the song popped up again on the sound system in Columbus, Ohio, as Bush rally organizers tried to warm up a crowd of thousands. A campaign spokesman said the song was piped inadvertently into the arena as part of a video montage.
Hall, still a working musician at 56, wrote “Still the One” with his then-wife, Johanna D. Hall. The two, as well as surviving members of the band, are supporters of Democratic Sen. John Kerry and didn’t want their work used to promote Bush’s re-election.
“I’m not just some guy that’s stoned out and happened to write a song, and even if I were, it would still be a problem, because you should always ask permission to use the work,” Hall said.
Later, upon learning of the campaign’s decision to pull the song, Hall welcomed the news and said, “It’s obviously attractive as a slogan, but this election should be about content and facts.”
Hall is also concerned that political use of the song could hurt its commercial appeal, scaring away advertisers. “Still the One” has been used by Applebee’s, Burger King and the ABC network, according to Hall.
The songwriter said the campaign never sought permission to use the song, raising questions about royalty fees.
“If you have protectable copyrights to a song and someone is using it without permission, and especially if they know they’re using it without permission, there is some sort of legal liability there and it may be that they could be required to pay royalties at the very least,” said Daniel Healy, an intellectual property lawyer at the firm Anderson, Kill & Olick.
Hall, who lives in Dutchess County about 90 miles north of New York City, said his band recently declined an offer of $10,000 to perform at a fund-raiser for Maryland Republicans.