‘Saturday Night Live’ Takes on Trump’s Illegal Use of Songs

From SNL, 10.24.20. Kenan Thompson leads the Village People in a musical response to Trump’s use of “Y.M.C.A.”

The choice of The Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” by the Trump campaign to end their rallies with a big spirited sing & dance-along was not only strange, it was illegal. When permission was sought for usage of the song by the president’s campaign squad, it was denied. That denial, like those of so many other artists and bands who refused usage to Trump, was summarily denied; the campaign elected to keep using the song without permission. Evidently the rights of American songwriters and artists is of no concern to this gang. Big shock.

So the Village People took the next step, as did Neil Young, John Fogerty, R.E.M.The Rolling Stones, Queen, Adele, Rihanna, Paul McCartney, Elton John, the estates of Tom Petty, John Lennon, George Harrison and Luciano Pavarotti, and many others, of issuing cease & desist notices. Trump, however, has long resisted ever ceasing or desisting. It’s why losing an election isn’t reason enough for him to ever leave.  

Kenan Thompson and cast members of SNL as The Village People

Neil Young was the first of all to fight this illegal music-using bandit. He was first because he is the musician Trump has said is his favorite of all. (A distinction about which Neil, no doubt, never stops bragging.) Trump and the gang kept using Neil’s “Rocking in the U.S.A.”

“He didn’t listen to my request,” wrote Neil in an open letter. “Just as he doesn’t listen to the millions of American voices wishing he would stop lying.”

But perhaps the most persuasive message sent out about this issue, because it had comedy at its core, which always goes much farther than any perceived sanctimony,  was the one from Saturday Night Live on October 24, 2020. In the Weekend Update segment, Kenan Thompson led other cast members (Bowen Yang, Mikey Day, Chris Redd and Beck Bennet) to portray the Village People delivering that message to Trump. In song. 

To the tune of “Y.M.C.A,” they sang:

Stop it
Yeah, I’m talking to you
I said, stop it
This is long overdue
‘Cause we never said that we support you
You must pay to use our songs…..

Donald ‘Cause of all of your lies
We’re playing hardball, and we got a surprise
He’s a lawyer who you might recognize
He’s gonna send you a cease and desist
Get ready for a cease and desist.

When the group went into lyrics about taking retribution by shaving Ivanka’s head, host Colin Jost stopped them and said making such threats was not allowed, as it is a felony.

Kenan shrugged to make one final remark about the power of song.

“Hey, man,” he answered. “Everything is legal if you sing it in a song.”

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