Rock the vote

Musicians with national interests
By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  May 25, 2010

In the run-up to the 2008 election, the National weren’t shy about their political leanings: not only did they play Obama rallies, but the campaign used their “Fake Empire” numerous times in TV spots and live events. When I ask Bryan Devendorf about his band’s part in the campaign, he demurs: “I would underplay our role, really. We were just avid supporters of the Democrats — or, really, more like opponents of the Republicans.”

READ: "Master crafters: The National come back from the drawing board," by Daniel Brockman
That's the rock-and-roll spirit! Although it’s not unusual for rockers to get political, it is rare for them to get political in favor of something. (Rock and roll is the original party of no, after all.) Here are a couple of positive political endorsements in rock history, and one from a pre-rock icon:

NEIL YOUNG | Young threw his mostly-left-leaning fan base for a loop when he endorsed Ronald Reagan’s bid for the presidency. Of course, the early ’80s saw Young bucking trends in many other ways — like making totally uncommercial records. His Reagan fever had to do with what he perceived as a weakened American consciousness — but maybe it was drug-addled weakness that had him falling for “Morning in America.”

ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND | My guess is that Lynyrd Skynyrd weren’t the only band who didn’t need Neil Young around, as the song goes. Carter’s walloping at the hands of Reagan in 1980 must have stung the Allmans, who four years earlier had pulled out all the stops to endorse their favorite home-town-peanut-farmer-turned-political-wunderkind. Of course, it's possible that Greg and company were motivated less by the prospect of a solar-powered White House than by the thought of a fellow Georgian in the big seat.

FRANK SINATRA | Back before all that rock and roll, music stars had no problem backing political candidates — or switching sides. The master of this was Ol’ Blue Eyes, who joined Neil Young in his support for the Gipper. But don't mistake Sinatra for a lifelong conservative: starting with his 1944 support for FDR and continuing through the ’50s and into the ’60s, he was a dedicated supporter of leftish Dem causes. His switch was likely personal, stemming from a snub by none other than JFK himself in the early ’60s, after which Sinatra went red (state, that is) and never came back.

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