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Music History Events: Music and Politics

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March 10, 2003 Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines sparks political controversy in the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq after telling a London audience: "Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas."

October 13, 2000 Eddie Vedder, Ani DiFranco, Ben Harper and Patti Smith all take part in a Madison Square Garden rally for US presidential candidate Ralph Nader. George Bush eventually wins the election, with Nader taking key votes from his Democratic challenger Al Gore.

April 7, 1998 Mary Bono, who was married to Sonny Bono when he died in a skiing accident four months earlier, wins a special election to claim her husband's seat in California's 44th Congressional District. Mary, who has no previous political experience, holds office until 2013.

March 30, 1995 Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard takes an MTV news crew along for a ride in a stretch limo, where he stops to pick up food stamps, proving that the ID card on the cover of his solo album is real.More

November 8, 1994 Sonny Bono, half of Sonny and Cher and former mayor of Palm Springs, Calfornia, is elected to the US House of Representatives, representing the 44th district in California.

January 20, 1993 At the Triangle Ball, the first gay and lesbian inaugural ball, Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang and Janis Ian come out publicly, declaring that they are gay and in same-sex relationships.More

January 19, 1993 Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks return to Fleetwood Mac to perform Bill Clinton's campaign song, "Don't Stop," at his inauguration ceremonies.More

October 3, 1992 Sinéad O'Connor, famous for her hit song "Nothing Compares 2 U," goes way off script during her Saturday Night Live appearance, declaring "Fight the real enemy" and tearing up a picture of the Pope.More

June 3, 1992 Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, campaigning for US president, makes a whistle stop on The Arsenio Hall Show, where he plays the Elvis Presley hit "Heartbreak Hotel" on the saxophone to a cheering, youthful audience. The appearance is later seen as the definitive moment when Clinton captured the trust and support of young voters, and locked the election on charisma points.More

January 26, 1992 Presidential candidate Bill Clinton appears on the news program 60 Minutes with his wife, Hillary, who in response to a discussion about her husband's infidelity, says, "I'm not sitting here – some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette."More

January 15, 1991 On the United Nations deadline for Iraq to remove troops from Kuwait, a new version of "Give Peace A Chance" is released, with contributions from Iggy Pop, Tom Petty, LL Cool J and dozens of others.More

August 24, 1990 Sinéad O'Connor refuses to perform at the Garden State Arts Center in New Jersey until they agree not to play the US national anthem before the show.More

July 21, 1990 With a bevy of special guests, Roger Waters performs The Wall at the former site of the Berlin Wall, which came down eight months earlier.More

May 30, 1989 Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) appears on a British TV show called Hypotheticals, where he addresses the fatwa issued against the author Salman Rushdie. Islam seems to support the fatwa - when asked if he would attend a protest where a Rushdie effigy is burned, he replies, "I would have hoped that it'd be the real thing."More

June 11, 1988 Dozens of big-name acts, including Peter Gabriel, Sting, Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder, rock the stage at the Free Nelson Mandela Concert at Wembley Stadium in London.More

April 12, 1988 Sonny Bono (of Sonny & Cher) is elected mayor in his hometown of Palm Springs, California. He holds the position until 1992; in 1994 he is elected to Congress.

September 2, 1987 Sonny Bono announces his run for mayor of Palm Springs, California, after running into zoning problems with his restaurant there. He wins and later becomes a congressman.

May 10, 1986 Paul Simon plays three songs from his upcoming Graceland album on Saturday Night Live. He's backed by South African musicians, including the vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who perform with him on "Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes." With South Africa under a cultural boycott in an attempt to stop Apartheid, its music is sequestered. Simon's appearance with musicians from the country and the subsequent album introduce the sound to a global audience, but also cause problems for Simon when he faces criticism for violating the boycott.

January 20, 1986 After years of campaigning to make Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a federal holiday, Stevie Wonder commemorates the occasion with a star-studded concert celebration in Washington, D.C.More

November 1, 1985 The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) agrees to some demands made by another initialed organization, the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). As a result, any album deemed to contain offensive lyrics must be issued with a warning label, or the lyrics must be printed on the sleeve. Most record companies go with the labels, which don't seem to hurt sales.More

May 14, 1985 Ronald Reagan presents Michael Jackson with a special Presidential Humanitarian Award at the White House for his work against drunk driving. Footage of the ceremony is shown repeatedly when Jackson comes into legal trouble in the following years.

May 13, 1985 The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) holds a meeting in a Washington church where they foment support for their agenda: a ratings system for albums and concerts like those used for movies, and also to keep offensive album covers out of view in record stores. Their efforts lead to warning stickers on albums with offensive lyrics.More

April 7, 1985 Wham! becomes the first Western pop group to play in China when they perform at the Worker's Gymnasium in Beijing. Footage from their trip appears in the video for their song "Freedom."More

March 25, 1985 Stevie Wonder accepts the Oscar for Best Original Song "in the name of Nelson Mandela."More

September 19, 1984 At a whistle-stop in Hammonton, New Jersey, campaigning president Ronald Reagan praises singer Bruce Springsteen, saying: "America's future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts; it rests in the message of hope in songs so many young Americans admire: New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen. And helping you make those dreams come true is what this job of mine is all about." This leads to widespread criticism in the press because Springsteen's recent hit, "Born In The U.S.A.," is in fact a bitter cry of outrage at how poorly the United States treats its veterans, which Reagan had apparently mistaken for a straight-forward patriotic anthem - an easy mistake to make if you listen to the chorus only and not the lyrics.

July 23, 1984 Vanessa Williams gives up her Miss America crown midway through her run after naked pictures of her appear in Penthouse. The controversy doesn't keep her from becoming a very popular actress and singer: in 1991 she releases her #1 hit "Save The Best For Last."

June 12, 1982 As part of the "No Nukes" movement during the Cold War, the largest political rally in US history takes place when about 750,000 people go to New York's Central Park for the Rally for Nuclear Disarmament, which features performances by Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, and Gary "U.S." Bonds.More

January 15, 1981 Stevie Wonder leads a rally in Washington to get Martin Luther King's birthday declared an official holiday. He performs his song "Happy Birthday," written for King, which becomes a rallying call for the movement.More

July 14, 1980 The combustible couple Glen Campbell and Tanya Tucker open the Republican National Convention in Detroit with a duet of the National Anthem. Campbell later admits they were "higher than the notes we were singing." Other performers at the convention include Vicki Lawrence, Donny & Marie Osmond, and Pat Boone.

December 21, 1979 At the San Diego Sports Arena, Linda Ronstadt holds a fundraising concert for her boyfriend, California governor Jerry Brown, who is running for president. Chicago and the Eagles also perform.

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