Musicians are feeling the Bern
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may be focusing his energy on trying to win over voters in early primary states, but a variety of musicians have shown that they are listening, too.
From Jack White to Ariana Grande, musical stars have signaled a liking for the Democratic presidential candidate.
Democrats have long turned to Hollywood and the music industry to leverage their own candidacy and gain support. Sen. Elizabeth Warren received an endorsement from Netflix’s “Queer Eye” star and advocate Jonathan Van Ness, and John Legend recently told Vanity Fair that Warren is “the best candidate running today.” South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has had fundraisers hosted by Mandy Moore and Ellen DeGeneres. Businessman Andrew Yang will have Weezer perform at his event in Des Moines prior to his appearance at the Iowa Democratic Party Liberty and Justice celebration.
But so far, Sanders is gaining traction in this musical primary.
On Wednesday, two members of indie band Dispatch joined the ranks. Brad Corrigan and Chad Stokes Urmston performed at Sanders’ rally in New Hampshire and shared their support.
“It’s a real honor to be here” Stokes Urmston told the crowd. “We’ve been Bernie fans for a long time now and really admire his courage to say what he believes all these years. It’s the same thing from 30, 40 years ago, he’s been saying the same thing and finally the world caught up to him.”
“Let’s get behind Bernie with all that we have” Corrigan added.
And ahead of Sanders’ joint rally with Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar in Minneapolis on Sunday, New Power Generation, Prince’s longtime backing band, announced its endorsement.
“We’re really proud to stand with Sen. Bernie Sanders as he attempts to bring America back to the people. It’s time for the people to take back the government,” said Morris Hayes, the late star’s musical director and longest standing band member. “Like the good Senator says, it’s not me or him, it’s us.”
Such support has come as the campaign aims to make live music central to its events, Sanders deputy campaign manager Ari Rabin-Havt said.
“One of the questions Bernie always asks before an event is do we have a band. So we try to have a musical event at every rally because that’s something he really believes in” Rabin-Havt told CNN. “For Bernie, political events should be fun, should be cultural and should be entertaining. And it’s not just I’m about getting famous musicians to perform. We try to have local musicians of a variety of genres from rap to blue grass to reggae perform.”
That was on display last weekend, when Jack White, of the former band White Stripes, opened at Sanders’ rally in Detroit, where Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib offered her endorsement to the Vermont senator.
In the middle of his seven-song set, White, performing at his high school alma mater, told the crowd why he backed Sanders.
“Listen, I’ve never done a political rally before. I’m not really politically affiliated too much. I don’t consider myself a member of any party or anything I just listen to the issues” White said. “I want to listen to someone and understand that they’re telling me the truth if I trust them. Bernie Sanders is telling the truth, and I really do trust him.”
White noted that Sanders’ position on abolishing the electoral college is what drew him toward the senator’s candidacy.
That endorsement came just days after singer Jason Mraz also announced his support for Sanders.
“To me, he’s the only candidate who can continue to drain the swamp,” Mraz wrote on his website.
Earlier this year, Sanders was walking through McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas when singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile approached him. Rabin-Havt, whowitnessed the interaction, told CNN that Carlile asked to take a photo with Sanders and offered to perform at a campaign event. Weeks later, Carlile opened for Sanders at his first Vermont rally of the cycle.
“It’s a great honor to be here” Carlile told the Montpelier crowd in May. “I love him and I’m here to support him.”
Rapper T.I., who also publicly endorsed Sanders in 2016, appeared on The View last week and said he believes Sanders is the best candidate to defeat Trump.
“For me, it’s anybody but Trump 2020,” T.I. said initially. But, when pressed further about who he believes can beat Trump, the rapper added, “Right now, the only person I see who has a base strong enough to oppose him is Bernie [Sanders].”
The Sanders campaign, of course, has incorporated other celebrities into their campaign. Actress Susan Sarandon, who supported and campaigned for Sanders in 2016, joined the senator once more on the campaign trail in Iowa over the summer. Rapper Killer Mike and actor and activist Danny Glover, who both endorsed Sanders in 2016, have also repeatedly joined Sanders on the campaign trail this time around. Actor Danny DeVito and John Cusack have also made appearance in support of the senator.
But the sway he holds with musicians continues on. Many have not gone as far as formally endorsing Sanders, but still have suggested an affinity for the politician.
On the day she released a remix of “Good as Hell” with Lizzo, Ariana Grande tweeted the lyric, “baby how u feelin.”
Sanders, unprompted and not opting for the obvious lyrical reply (“Good as hell”), said, “Ready to fight for Medicare for All.”
Grande retweeted Sanders’ response: “screaming.”
Lizzo has also shown an appreciation for Sanders. Over the summer, the singer called on her followers not to focus on Sanders’ age and think critically about the Democratic presidential candidates.
And of course, rapper Cardi B has continued to show her support for Sanders.
Cardi B filmed a video with Sanders in July to talk about how his agenda will address raising the minimum wage and unemployment. The rapper tweeted earlier that month: “I been reading about Bernie Sanders and I’m really sad how we let him down in 2016.”
Sanders returned the compliment.
“What it means is, what Cardi B does, not only is she an enormously popular entertainer, what she is doing is speaking to young people about the important issues that are on their minds and I applaud that very much,” Sanders told CNN in July.