Musicians Hop Onto Election Cycle

Democratic Convention Has the Stars, McCain Gets Grief

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John McCain
Photo: AP

John McCain wants to be your first dancing president.

With election fever raging, the nation's musicians are showing their colors. Obama heads the race as far as star endorsements go, with the recent Democratic convention featuring a kickoff concert at Denver's Red Rocks Amphitheatre with performances from Sheryl Crow, Dave Matthews (with long-time cohort and activist Tim Reynolds) and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles.

There were several "off-convention" performances by acts such as Rage Against the Machine and many smaller acoustic performances from Death Cab for Cutie and others. As one might expect, there was also plenty of schmoozing from the stars, which, according to the NY Times, included Kanye West and other "multiplatinum rappers, indie-rock scenesters, D.J.'s and Jennifer Lopez arriving by the van- and private planeload to perform, rally or schmooze with the political elite."

The final day of the convention saw performances by Jennifer Hudson -- who opened proceedings with the national anthem -- and Will.i.am, who recreated the viral video hit "Yes We Can" live onstage with a full gospel choir. The night was topped off by Stevie Wonder, who performed two songs, including "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours."

Chris Daughtry, the "American Idol" rock singer, played both the Democratic and the Republican conventions with his band, taking a strictly nonpartisan stance. McCain must have been glad that at least one major star wasn't giving him a hard time; the Republican presidential nominee has received a deluge of complaints from artists who have not been happy about the use of their music in his rallies and public appearances, including Chuck Berry, Jackson Browne, Van Halen and, most recently, classic rock outfit Heart. The band has issued a cease-and-desist letter to McCain's camp over the use of the 1977 hit "Barracuda," which was used as running mate Sarah Palin's theme song at the Republican convention last week.

There's probably a lesson or two to learn from Obama on how to effectively bridge the gap between politics and pop culture. The Illinois senator has been embracing music from the get-go with the Barack Obama Music Alliance, and he's brought artists along for the ride by involving them in his events.
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