“Keep on rockin’ in the free world.” Rock fans certainly know that oft-repeated line from Neil Young’s 1989 hit, but the song was hijacked Tuesday. “Rockin In The Free World” was playing when Donald Trump took the stage to announce that he’s running for president, and its author was none too pleased. The Toronto native issued a statement through his longtime manager this evening that the Billionaire With the Crazy Hair used the record without asking nicely first. “Donald Trump was not authorized to use ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ in his presidential candidacy announcement,” the statement read. “Neil Young, a Canadian citizen, is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for President of the United States Of America.”
Anyone who has followed Young’s career knows that he’s not going to endorse a Republican these days, let alone Trump. So a rebuke seemed inevitable. The situation brought to mind that time in 1984 when a sitting GOP president tried to glom on to a rock star. That’s when Ronald Reagan — a former SAG president, you might recall — told a crowd: “America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts. It rests in the message of hope in the songs of a man so many young Americans admire: New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen.” Remember, that was as the Boss’ single “Born In The U.S.A.” was all over the radio at home and abroad. Funny how Trump and Reagan both chose to call attention to records that might seem jingoistic on the surface but, if the lyrics are given more than just a slight amount of actual thought, certainly are not.
Sample lines from “Rockin’ In The Free World” for Trump’s staffers to think about: “There’s a warning sign/on the road ahead/There’s a lot of people saying we’d be better off dead.” By the by, think the Donald ever checked out that hat Young wore on the cover of Freedom, the album that kicks off with “Rockin’ In The Free World”?