The presidential campaign song is one of the great American traditions, going all the way back to John Adams in 1800. And yet, compared to other aspects of the presidential election campaign, they often get overlooked.
As any ad-man would agree, a good jingle is vital to secure the attention of a potential consumer — or voter.
Sometimes these attempts at rallying the vote lead to works of art, pieces that last in their own right for decades after the presidential campaign has ended. Other times, you’re left with musical abominations that can break a politician’s chances for success.
And so, here are some of the best and worst presidential campaign songs in U.S. history.
BEST — “Nixon Now” by the Mike Curb Congregation (Richard Nixon 1972)
Unlike Richard Nixon’s presidency, the 37th president’s 1972 campaign song Nixon Now is a masterpiece from start to finish.
Written by Ken Sutherland and performed by the Mike Curb Congregation, it kind of makes you wonder how anyone could vote against Nixon with such a beautiful theme tune under his belt.
Not that it did him any favors in the end.
WORST — “Hillary4U&Me” by Hillary4U&Me (Hillary Clinton 2008)
Though this piece was technically an unofficial Hillary Clinton 2008 campaign song, it made great waves at the time for being a prime example of what not to do.
At over 650,000 views on YouTube, nearly 8,000 dislikes and just 750 likes, it’s safe to say that Hillary4U&Me at least marginally hindered Clinton’s chances for an election win in 2008.
BEST — “High Hopes” by Frank Sinatra (John F. Kennedy 1960)
Widely regarded as the best presidential campaign song of all time, John F. Kennedy was able to bag a catchy track from Frank Sinatra himself– adapting an already released Sinatra song High Hopes and changing the lyrics to be about Kennedy.
“Everyone is voting for Jack, ’cause he’s got what all the rest lack!” sang Sinatra, solidifying Kennedy’s status as one of the coolest Americans that ever lived.
“Oops there goes the opposition,” Sinatra continues later on in the song, and as Kennedy beat Nixon that year in 1960, I think it’s safe to say that Sinatra was right.
WORST — “Our Fight Song” by the Democratic National Committee (Hillary Clinton 2016)
Sorry, Hillary, but you haven’t had the best experience with campaign songs.
Unlike Hillary4U&Me, Our Fight Song was produced by the Democratic National Committee for Clinton’s campaign against Donald Trump in 2016, and boasted a myriad of famous musicians, actors, and other notables who supported Clinton’s run for presidency.
In one scene from the music video, a man is symbolically pushed out of the way by a woman, who takes his place singing — subtle! — and the very first words uttered in the song, “This is for Hillary!” cement the viewer’s greatest fears before the track even gets going: that this is going to be another unbearable Hillary Clinton campaign song.
BEST — “Hello, Lyndon!” by Ed Ames (Lyndon B. Johnson 1964)
Lyndon B. Johnson was a weird president. Following Kennedy’s assassination, Vice President Johnson assumed the presidency, and became one of the most controversial men to have ever graced the Oval Office.
As president, Johnson reportedly engaged in such bizarre rituals as exposing his penis to staffers and urinating in sinks.
In a leaked phone call with a tailor, Johnson could also be heard speaking confidently about his “bunghole.”
Still– the man had a pretty good 1964 campaign song: Hello, Lyndon! by Ed Ames, a play on Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly!
WORST — “Forward: An Anthem for Obama’s Second Term” by Various (Barack Obama 2012)
Barack Obama is typically regarded by liberals as the cool president, but this 2012 campaign song is anything but.
Another Band-Aid-style music video, like Our Fight Song, with shots of headphone-wearing musicians singing passionately into microphones in black and white, Forward: An Anthem for Obama’s Second Term feels extremely 2004.
BEST — “Kennedy For Me” by Unknown (John F. Kennedy 1960)
Another win for Kennedy!
Though technically not a campaign song, and more of a television jingle, this track’s lyrics mostly consisted of “Kennedy!” over and over again.
Take a listen and tell me you wouldn’t vote for Kennedy after seeing such a colorful display pop up on your television set.
WORST — “Why Not The Best?” (Jimmy Carter 1976)
A rather ironic campaign track considering Jimmy Carter was not the best president. Nor was this track the best campaign song.
A very mediocre song for a fairly mediocre administration.
BEST — “Every Man a King” by Huey P. Long and José Castro Carazo (Huey P. Long 1935)
Like the campaign from the man himself, Every Man a King, Huey P. Long’s signature ballad, was short but sweet.
Encompassing his political philosophy in a concise way, this song is one of the few presidential campaign songs that lasted decades, even receiving a cover from Randy Newman in 1974.
WORST — “The Official Donald Trump Jam” by the Freedom Girls (Donald Trump 2016)
Live, before Donald Trump’s January 2016 rally in Pensacola, Florida, the Freedom Girls took to the stage for a performance of the “Official Donald Trump Jam.”
Lyrics included, “Cowardice, are you serious? Apologies for freedom, I can’t handle this!”, “Enemies of freedom, face the music, come on boys take ’em down!”, and “President Donald Trump knows how to make America great, do it from strength or get crushed every time!”
With an audience of confused old people golf-clapping along in the background, this campaign song reached such great heights of eery absurdity that David Lynch would struggle to top it.
And at 65,000 dislikes on YouTube against just 18,000 likes, The Official Donald Trump Jam is officially one of the most unpopular campaign songs of all time.
THE DOWNRIGHT WEIRD — “George Wallace For ’72” by Unknown (George Wallace 1972)
Set to the tune of The Ballad of Davy Crockett, this bizarre 1972 campaign track replaces Davy Crockett’s name for segregationist George Wallace.
“Georgy, Georgy Wallace, leader of our land!” the song booms instead of “Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier!” and the listener is left in a slightly confused state.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: John Rich’s 2008 cringe-country ballad for John McCain: “Raisin’ McCain,” The Citizens’ neat and tidy jingle for Barry Goldwater 1964: “Goldwater,” George Wallace’s downright weird 1972 campaign track, and Deadbeatz’ 2012 Ron Paul rap “President Paul.”
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