Survivor vs. Gingrich, and 17 Other Musician vs. Politician Rumbles

The lawsuit against Newt from the "Eye of the Tiger" songwriter is the latest in a long tradition.

gingrich survivor.jpg

Reuters/Scotti Brothers

The prize-fight puns have been flying ever since the news broke earlier this week that Newt Gingrich is being sued over "Eye of the Tiger." The song's co-writer, Frankie Sullivan of the band Survivor, filed an injunction on Monday in Chicago seeking to stop Gingrich's campaign from playing the 1982 Rocky III hit at rallies and to collect an unspecified amount of damages. (His co-writer has said he's not on board with the suit.)

Sullivan tells The Atlantic that his lawyer first noticed that Gingrich was playing "Eye of the Tiger" at political events in 2009 and sent the politician a cease-and-desist letter then. Evidently, he says, it didn't take. The musician says that lately, it's been hard to miss Gingrich using the song at campaign stops.

"All you have to do is put the TV on or go on YouTube," he says. "It's all over the place. One time they played the whole song and then played it again. I thought, OK, nine minutes of 'Eye of the Tiger' is too much for me to hear for myself, much less for somebody else."

The musician stresses that the lawsuit is not politically motivated.

"Mr. Gingrich happens to be a presidential candidate, but it has nothing to do with that," Sullivan says. "It has to do with the actual use of my work. I'm pretty savvy because I own my own publishing catalogue, meaning all my songs. Where most people sign with a publisher, I did it myself. So I thought, 'I'd better have a good intellectual property attorney around.' I knew enough to know that there's sync licenses and sync fees and venue licenses. He never really got one.

"And I'm pretty passionate about protecting [my work]," he continues. "I'm a pitbull about it. I think that those laws are very clear. And in this case, it's the copyright for 'Eye of the Tiger.' Thirty years later, it's iconic. So, I would think that if they're going to use something that familiar, then you have to go through the right channels and do things the right way."

Gingrich is actually not the only presidential candidate that Sullivan has had to confront, according to Sullivan. "I sent [John] McCain a letter," he says. "He used "Tiger" one time. He said, 'Sorry, I won't do it again. No problem.'"

Sullivan joins a history of artists whose songs have built the unwilling mixtape of the electoral process. Below, we look back at every musician to enter the political ring and spar with a candidate.

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Jason Richards is a writer from Toronto who has contributed to New York Magazine, Gawker, and RollingStone.com.

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