Tom Morello, guitarist of alternative metal band Rage Against the Machine, wants talk show host Rush Limbaugh to stop using his music, calling the right-wing commentator a “jackass.” Now, other bands are beginning to speak up as well.
“Rush Limbaugh played [our song] “Sleep Now in the Fire” as a bumper on his show today,” Morello told Rolling Stone. “Our response: Hey, stop using our music on your racist, misogynist, right-wing clown show.”
Ironically, that Rage song was left-wing-oriented, and filmmaker Michael Moore directed its accompanying music video.
Limbaugh recently made several hateful remarks about Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, calling her a “slut” and “prostitute” when she argued that birth control should be covered by health insurance.
It seems that now, in addition to earning the ire of women for his misogynistic remarks, Limbaugh has also proven himself no friend of musicians.
Earlier in the week, reported Blabbermouth, Canadian classic rockers Rush sent a cease-and-desist letter to the commentator, demanding their music be pulled from the talk show. Peter Gabriel and blues band The Fabulous Thunderbirds also want their music removed from the show, according to Rolling Stone.
The Thunderbirds’ song “Tuff Enuff” has been in use on Limbaugh’s show for some time now, but singer Kim Wilson said the Sandra Fluke incident was the last straw. “I don’t want people to think I’m affiliated in any way, shape, or form with him,” said Wilson. “The message he promotes is something I’m totally against.”
Morello, whose latest music project is rap-rock group Street Sweeper Social Club, is co-founder of nonprofit organization The Axis of Justice, which invites musicians to engage in political activism, and focuses on issues including immigrant rights and fairness for workers.
Morello has been a prominent figure of the Occupy movement and the protests against Gov. Scott Walker in Madison, Wis. – both of which he has performed at.
Neither Morello nor his fellow musicians may be able to do much about the misuse of their tunes, sources note. Radio programs typically don’t need explicit permission from songwriters to play their music, and are allowed to play whatever they want as long as it doesn’t violate FCC regulations.
“Artists who take money from public performance royalties don’t have the right, typically, to control who plays their songs,” said attorney Larry Iser. “Once they choose to add their songs to the public performance catalog, they’re out there for anyone with a licensing agreement to use.”
In Rush’s cease-and-desist letter, however, the band argues that the public performance of their music is not licensed for political purposes. This basically argues that the scope of a public performance license has its limits, and that Rush – and other outraged musicians – may indeed have some grounds if they decide to file a lawsuit.
Either way, said Iser, artists still have the right to express their disapproval of the misuse of their music. “The Constitution is the Constitution,” he said, “and thank goodness for it. They have a legal right to stand up and make as much noise as possible about how appalled they are.”
Limbaugh’s not the only Republican catching flak from artists. Grammy-winning rock band Survivor is suing GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich for using their song “Eye of the Tiger” at recent campaign rallies.
Iser had some advice for the right-wingers; the solution, he said, is simple: “There are so many songs. If an artist takes issue, go find another one.”
Photo: Tom Morello performs in New York. Jason DeCrow/AP