Donald Trump has been playing “Rockin’ in the Free World” at his rallies for the past few years despite Neil Young’s fervent objections, and over the weekend he added “Cowgirl in the Sand” and “Like a Hurricane” into the mix at an event near Mount Rushmore.
Young initially called Trump out on Twitter by saying it was “not OK with me,” but he’s now taken to his website to address the matter further in an open letter to the President.
“Although I have repeatedly asked you to please not use my music because it indicates that I support your agenda you have always played my songs anyway at your gatherings, with no regard for my rights, even calling me names on Twitter,” he wrote.
“Because you are in charge of the COVID-19 response here in the USA, I will not sue (as certainly is my right) potentially distracting from your important work at hand protecting and saving American lives,” he continues. “With the enormous power you wield on our behalf, I wish you all the best in your critical battle to save American souls from this threat.”
Despite their vast political differences, Trump is a long-time fan of Neil Young. “He’s got something very special,” Trump told IndieLand in 2008. “His voice is perfect and haunting. He’s 63 and I don’t think it’s changed. It’s more important than his playing, ’cause you have so many great players — but there’s just one voice like that. Whatever the hell ‘it’ is, he’s got it.”
Trump was spotted at several New York City Neil Young concerts in the 2000s and he quoted him (“As you go through life, you’ve got to see the valleys as well as the peaks”) in a 2014 tweet. They met up at Trump’s office the year when Young was looking for investors for his digital audio company, Pono. The next year, however, Trump announced his campaign for the presidency and their relationship soured.
“Here is a photo of Neil Young in my office and his $$ request,” Trump tweeted in 2015 after Young first criticized his use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” at his rallies. “Total hypocrite.”
Young supported Bernie Sanders in the 2020 Democratic primary, but he’s now fully behind Joe Biden. Earlier this month, he released a new version of his 2006 song “Lookin’ for a Leader” that encourages listeners to reject Trump and support the former Vice President.
“I suggest you listen to my song,” Young wrote in his new letter. “I believe it would be an interesting addition to your next rally.”