Reporter's Notebook

Theme Songs for Presidential Candidates
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Readers submit tracks they associate with the 2016 presidential candidates. Submit your own via

Show 7 Newer Notes

Track of the Day: 'It's a Long Way to the Top'

Edward Sharpe, a reader in Alberta, recommends a cover song a little better suited for our series of song selections inspired by presidential candidates—and possible running mates? Here’s Edward:

I was tooling around in the car today and Lucinda Williams’s cover of AC/DC's “It’s A Long Way To The Top” came up. Her tone screamed out to the trip that Hillary Clinton is on. And the content, along with the Mavis Staples-like voice helping out in the background, had me thinking about Elizabeth Warren, her line of work, and her possible outspoken support for quite possibly the first woman POTUS. I didn’t think Warren was going to do that until next week, but she had probably announced very shortly before the tune came up for me. 

(Track of the Day archive here. Earlier archive here. Submit via hello@.)

For our periodic series of songs themed on presidential candidates, reader Meg nominates a Leonard Cohen classic for Bernie Sanders:

It’s appropriate on so many levels. The two men have a lot in common in generation and origin, but more importantly, in viewpoints on social justice, equality, individual liberty, and peace. Both are complex, but they are brave in their convictions, and this song addresses hope for the restoration of a functional democracy.

Update from a reader with an alternative pick:

Leonard Cohen is great, but for my money you’d be hard pressed to find a song more explicitly socialist in sentiment than Joseph Arthur's “Travel as Equals.” (There’s a studio version too, but this live version from the Letterman show is somehow far superior.) The message aimed straight at the 1%, and the emotion in Arthur’s vocals seem to me a perfect summation of the core of Bernie’s appeal.

(Track of the Day archive here. Access it through Spotify here. Submit via hello@)

At a rally today in Illinois, presidential long shot John Kasich compared his life to that of Bilbo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, paraphrasing Gandalf to say that things in life don’t happen by accident. But if the Ohio governor were like Baggins—nice and inoffensive, nobody's really sure why he’s still around or what role he’s playing—then which characters from the book would most fit the other presidential candidates?

To her opponents, Hillary Clinton seems like Beorn, taking on whatever form is most convenient for the moment. Bernie Sanders, his supporters might say, is like Bard the Bowman as he goes after the elite wealth-hoarder Smaug. Marco Rubio is Fíli, the young, promising future leader who is unceremoniously killed. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is Thorin, a bombastic, riches-obsessed guy who is somehow leading everyone. Ted Cruz, like Gollum, covets his (class) ring. And Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal are the trolls who were knocked off early.

Long after the next president is sworn in, Kasich will probably still be around, living to 130 years old or so before one day crossing the sea with the elves.

(Track of the Day archive here. Access it through Spotify here. Submit via hello@)

For our ongoing series of songs inspired by presidential candidates at a particular moment in the campaign, a reader sends this classic from Elton John:

My window may be quite small, so I’d like to take the opportunity to dedicate this song to Marco Rubio [who’s only won a single contest out of 15 primaries and caucuses but is still standing].

(Track of the Day archive here. Access it through Spotify here. Submit via hello@)

A few weeks ago, a reader insisted, “It’s only fitting that each candidate gets a theme song that’s truly representative.” So far we’ve gotten entries for Trump, Sanders, and Cruz. Here’s one for Clinton—Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl,” which a pair of Clinton supporters mashed up with footage of her from several decades:

The reader adds, “If this video is truly independent, Team HRC needs to find these folks and hire them.” Update: The original video was removed from YouTube, so I replaced with a new copy, but if that gets removed too, here is the original Bikini Kill music video.

(Track of the Day archive here. Access it through Spotify here.)

For our new series of songs themed on presidential candidates, readers have already submitted ones for Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz. Today a reader sends “Donald Trump’s theme song,” which should be taken tongue in cheek:

Another reader gets the new series rolling:

“Joan of Arc” by Arcade Fire is way too perfect as a theme song for Ted Cruz coming out of the Iowa caucuses. There are quite a few songs about Joan out there—two operas, a musical, various pop songs from Leonard Cohen to Madonna—but this one is about how much hatred she inspired in others even though she was proven to be right in the end.

You had a vision they couldn’t see so
They put you down
But everything that you said would happen
It came around
And they’re the ones that put you down
'Cause they got no heart
But I'm the one that will follow you
You’re my Joan of Arc

I suspect Cruz isn’t quite ready to be burned at the stake for his beliefs, but his followers do seem to believe he has a direct line to G-d.

If you have a song you think fits a theme of one of the presidential candidates:

A reader writes:

Now that the presidential race is in full swing, I think it’s only fitting that each candidate gets a theme song that’s truly representative. This 1974 gem from 10cc is the perfect fit for Bernie. Delightfully bouncy (I love that time change in the middle), and the lyrics belie the cheery music:

Did your money make you better?
Are you waiting for the hour
When you can screw me?
‘Cos you’re big enough

To do the Wall Street Shuffle
Let your money hustle
Bet you’d sell your mother
You can buy another

Feel the Bern indeed!

What a great idea from our reader, picking a song that represents each candidate; what’s yours? Drop me an email with a brief explanation and I’ll post the best ones. There are/were a ton of GOP candidates (Jim Gilmore? “Who Are You?”), so this could turn into a great long series.