9 Reasons Art Garfunkel Allowed Sanders Campaign to Use ‘America’ for TV Ad

AP, Getty
AP, Getty

Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign rolled out a new television advertisement on Thursday featuring Simon and Garfunkel’s classic 1968 hit “America.”

The one-minute spot, set to begin airing in Iowa and New Hampshire on Friday, features shots of Sanders campaign rallies and American farmers set to the lyrics of the famous duo: “They’ve all come to look for America.”

A spokesman for the Sanders campaign told Variety that the use of the song was not meant to be an endorsement from Simon and Garfunkel of the Vermont senator’s presidential run. But that has not stopped Hillary Clinton’s team from attacking it.

David Brock, founder of pro-Clinton super PAC Correct the Record and head of liberal watchdog Media Matters, pointed out that the ad features few people of color.

“From this ad it seems black lives don’t matter much to Bernie Sanders,” Brock told the Associated Press on Thursday.

In a statement Friday, Garfunkel listed nine reasons he allowed the Sanders campaign to use the song. Paul Simon, who co-wrote the song with Garfunkel, has not yet commented.

Here’s Garfunkel’s complete statement, courtesy of Variety:

1. I never wanted to gain an influence on the public through my songs, and then use it for my politics. It’s bait and switch.

2. Xenophobia (fear of different people) is the issue of the 21st Century (said Bill Clinton to me backstage). We reach beyond nationalism — don’t I sing for ALL hearts and minds.

3. But after 9/11 I realized that I truly love my America and quest for an identity with my fellow Americans.

4. Almost 50 years ago I professed my love in a melodic suspension that soars at the end of our song, “America.”

5. I wanted my arrangement to be urgent, reaching, yearning, shining, and full of glory, full of my love for this country.

6. Who are we? 13 states in rebellion, making what kind of composite? Southern planters defending states’ rights or a beautiful unity founded on Hamilton’s respect for northern bankers.

7. 33 yrs later, just after 9/11, I wrote a piece (in my website, to be out in my autobiography next year) that again holds up a mirror.

8. Now I believe the monied interests have gone too far and have rigged the system.

[a poem from 2001]:

9. “Perhaps if I steal from Thomas Wolfe and give him his proper due — not the ‘man in full’ but the ‘homeward angel’ — he might reappear for you. Then see him up there where the Rockies rise, his legs dangling over the ledge above Denver, eight thousand feet in the air. Before him, the plains, behind, the Pacific, stars coming out on a summer’s night, and everywhere the twilight falls on America.

To the right is Amarillo, beyond it the Astros at play, over my shoulder, Seattle, over the other beyond the Great Canyon, gas fumes and fast food mix with the smell of L.A. Hear the blues parade across the stage. Up from New Orleans into Chicago, see all the clusters of lights beyond. Follow the fashion of Rock ‘n’ Roll — St Louie to Cleveland to Philly to bond the nation’s soul with music in its cars.

And in our hearts, love of the physical entity. America. Identity in doubt. We can’t go home again, so we’re runaway vagabonds, lost in twilight, wondering what we’re about.”
–Art Garfunkel 9/11/2001

Presidential campaigns have run into trouble this election cycle by using the songs of artists who don’t support them, or even outright hate them.

In June, a manager for Neil Young said that Donald Trump’s use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” during his initial campaign announcement was “unauthorized.” Young later said he supports Sanders in the upcoming election.

In January of last year, the Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys ordered Gov. Scott Walker to stop using its music after the then-presidential contender used the group’s song “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” before his speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit.

“We literally hate you,” the band wrote on Twitter at the time.