"There's always room in rock 'n' roll for some stuff to start happening at a grassroots level, and the most interesting stuff seems to start there."
Bono fans fill Obama coffers
The presidential hopeful has found just what he's looking for in U2 devotees as they swell his campaign reserves
August 30, 2008
One is charismatic, plays to packed stadiums and wants to change the world. The other is Bono. Now a group of U2 fans, struck by the parallels between Barack Obama and the Irish rock star, have become one of the U.S. Democratic presidential nominee's most enthusiastic band of supporters.
U2 fans for Obama, a collection of 103 U2 devotees, has raised almost $18,000 (EU12,200) for the presidential hopeful's campaign and organised more than 600 events to date.
The group, whose website and blog are linked to the presidential candidate's official homepage, believe that "since Bono can't run for U.S. president, Obama is the next best thing". Their blog declares that members "see in Obama a progressive Christian who embodies the ideas and sentiments...so compelling in U2's music."
The politician is already an avowed fan of the band, recently telling Rolling Stone magazine that U2 is on his iPod playlist. Bono attended the Democratic convention in Denver last week where he heard two U2 tracks, "City of Blinding Lights" and "Beautiful Day," bookend Obama's acceptance speech early on Friday. "Beautiful Day" was also the musical backdrop a night earlier when Obama introduced Senator Joe Biden, his nominee for vice-president, to the Denver crowd.
The U2 fans now rank as the 10th most active group on Obama's collection of small local fundraisers, modelled on a social networking site. Obama's website, my.barack obama.com, was developed by Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook. It has more than 1m users and hundreds of diverse social networking groups, including Women for Obama, Veterans for Obama and Environmentalists for Obama.
The groups use the website to plan events, set fundraising goals and volunteer to distribute leaflets. Obama hopes to outstrip the Republican election war chest by convincing "a million or so small donors to give less than $100 each."
It is no surprise that fans have drawn an analogy between Obama and U2. On their blog, U2 fans for Obama debate which songs by the band best sum up the politician and wrangle over whether Obama is "even better than the real thing - Bono." One argues that the two men's connection is "intellectual, political and spiritual."
The similarity between Obama and Bono has not gone unnoticed by John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, who has targeted the Democrat's celebrity image in a series of "attack ads." In Fan Club, a 60-second "spot" screened earlier this month, a woman says Obama is "amazing...at the level of Bono."
Rush Limbaugh, a U.S. right-wing chat show host, has accused Obama of plagiarising a speech by Bono. He claimed recently that Obama's Berlin address last month had echoes of the U2 frontman's speech at the 2005 Live 8 concert. Both men used the phrase: "People of the world! This is our moment. This is our time."
Although Obama is the most vocal political admirer of U2, he is not alone in his fandom. Hillary Clinton told the New York Post last year that "Beautiful Day" was one of the most frequently played songs on her MP3 player. In May 2007 she held an online poll asking supporters to choose her campaign song and included two U2 songs among her six choices, but Celine Dion's "You and I" won the popular vote.
John Edwards, another candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, used a U2 tune, "Pride (In the Name of Love)," as his official campaign song and Tony Blair used "Beautiful Day" as his re-election anthem. In the past the band have said: "We reserve the right to fall in and out with any political party. Mind you, every piece of airplay helps."
McCain has had more trouble than Obama in creating a campaign soundtrack. In February John Mellencamp asked the McCain camp to stop using his songs at rallies and Jackson Browne recently initiated legal proceedings against the McCain campaign for the unauthorised use of his 1970s hit "Running on Empty."
Since the lawsuit, McCain has been using Tina Turner's "Simply the Best" and Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," originally written about Caroline Kennedy, the only surviving child of John F. Kennedy.
"Things Can Only Get Better": A club hit from 1993, the D:Ream song reached new heights after being adopted by new Labour. The song's co-writer, Londonderry-born Peter Cunnah, later admitted having mixed feelings about allowing the song to be used.
"Your Kind of Country": Fianna Fail's Seamus Brennan went to the U.S. in 1976 to watch the presidential election and returned with the idea for this campaign song: "Three years of loneliness, that's what I've been through/ When I left school I joined me mates and we all joined the queue."
"Don't Stop": Bill Clinton, the baby-boomers' president, chose this song by Fleetwood Mac from 1977's Rumours as his campaign song in 1992. Clinton even succeeded in convincing the estranged band to reform and play at his inaugural ball.
"Arise and Follow Charlie": Donie Cassidy's idea, sung by the Wolfe Tones, raised the roof at a succession of Fianna Fail ard fheiseanna in the 1980s, with Haughey leading the rousing chorus.
© Times, 2008.