The Most Misused Song in GOP Politics: Van Halen’s “Right Now”


By Michael Scherer

If Republicans are on the campaign trail, Van Halen is back in vogue. For years, Republican candidates and politicians have been using Van Halen’s song, Right Now, as the walk-in jingle at rallies and events. The first time I recorded its use was November 5, 2006, when then-President George W. Bush used the tune to enter a rally in Greeley, Colo., not far from the slaughterhouse in a hall that smelled of cow manure. McCain used it in 2008, and over the weekend, Sarah Palin used the song to enter a rally in Wisconsin over the weekend. Connoisseurs of early-1990s hair rock know this is funny, even if Palin, Bush, and McCain never seem to get the joke.

The song was cut for Van Halen’s ninth studio album, “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge,” which not only refers to criminal sodomy in its title, but also makes a snappy, not-so-Republican acronym. As Sammy Hagar, the lead singer, explained at the time, “I wanted to name the album just f–k.” The song also spawned one of the great rock videos in hey day of music television. As the band sings, phrases like “Right now oil companies and old men are in control” flash across the screen. During its 2004 reunion tour, Van Halen flashed phrases on a video screen as it played the song. One of them read,”Right now, nothing is more expensive than regret,” superimposed over visuals of President George W. Bush.

Perhaps the greatest irony is that Van Halen has long tried to stop Republicans from using the song at events. After McCain piped it in after announcing Palin as his running mate in Ohio, Van Halen’s management released a statement to TMZ saying, “Permission was not sought or granted nor would it have been given.”

That was then. This is right now. And the song remains the same.

  • dahlyvh

    Sammy played at the 2008 Republican national convention in Minneapolis


    Ya old timer thought the same thing when I read the book ! Great point! But I’m almost sure he’s a republican He hangs out with country stars!

  • the sandman

    Politicians should do it right. Start every political function with “Unchained” and a split legged jump!


    Conservatives aren’t against welfare for those who need it. But they don’t think able bodied people should be on welfare while we import labor from Mexico. And I think 18% real unemployement is doing more damage to the middle class than any Republican plan proposed.

    But I was very very glad when Van Halen pulled Right Now from McCain because it was an early symptom there was something wrong with his campaign. That song blows, and anyone with taste would cringe having to hear it regularly.

    And I would bet my bottom dollar Valerie was behind getting the tune pulled. Didn’t she lose her mind over Gary’s pro Life letter?

  • dude

    Speaking of Ronald Reagan, remember when he tried to use Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ as a rah-rah USA song, not realizing what the lyrics even were? Fail.

    I always liked the fact that VH remained about rock and didn’t do the Bono U2 thing. While most politicians fail when they try to do the rock thing, most rockers stink when they try to do the political thing. Just saying.

  • crystal dawn

    I love politics so I can wade through the usual rants and find some good points. I like that the VHND puts varied stuff up here concerning VH (even if that includes Chickenfoot).

    I don’t think VH are overtly political but I’m sure the VH brothers are left leaning. Regardless of such, when you have douche-nozzles like Palin and Dubya using your music, you have to draw the line somewhere.

  • paul

    Who cares what Sammy Hagar thinks about politics. For the love of God, as DLR said, leave the saving the world crap to boner. This says a lot about the differences between DLR VH and VH without him. The truth is to compare the two bands is downright unfair. VH w/o DLR was a good pop rock band with a phenomenal guitarist. With DLR they were (and hopefull still are) a force of nature.

  • Ian

    All the Van Halen that would be considered “political” is usually a pretty universal message, so it really isn’t. I think Eddie, in particular, HATES politics and prefers good messages that appeal to the human being, not some particular group of people. “Ballot or the bullet” is just a call to be active in the voting process. Gary, if anything, shows a libertarian side. Sammy’s non-sexual-innuendo messages, are usually quasi-religious like “Mine All Mine” and some tunes like “In’N’Out” are about America’s propensity and love for debt.

    I like Van Halen’s “go out and go drinkin and fuckin'” songs, but I like to hear a little thoughtfulness too, from time to time.

  • Aftershock

    What is understood need not be discussed.


    What country was Barak Hussein Obama born in? He is that community activist that got elected president of America…… just sayin

  • Carnal Knowledge

    Repubelickers should leave this song alone. Period. They’re the problem, solution, and enigma. Repubelickers are in so much conflict with themselves, that shit ACTUALLY comes out of their ears.


    Tools. One and all. Period. (Yes, Democrats are tools too. But at least they actually give a shit about people)

  • ME!!

    I think Matt L., Dooley, & co5150 got it dead on perfect.

    I’m sure it was management that had a problem with it and most likely had to do with the concept of remaining apolitical and avoiding the appearance of endorsing any particular candidate rather than what the author is attempting to suggest. Typical left wing media tactic.

  • YZ

    Anybody that wants to be in charge should be disqualified.

  • Rick

    Sammy is a republican. Sammy wrote the lyrics. Sammy is definitely not a liberal or a democrat. Sammy spoke openly that he was fine with Sarah Palin using Right Now. It is public knowledge that Sammy has made personal donations to Republican candidates in California. It was the brothers who had a problem with it. These are the facts. I think it’s pretty sad that VHND has brought a political slant to the website. Just my personal opinion.

  • Rick

    My apologies VHND, in my previous remark, I noted that I thought it was sad that you would bring a political slant. I immediately afterward realized you were doing what you always do, just reporting a VH story that appeared somewhere on the internet. I retract that part of my comment. I completely expect Time to report irresponsibly. Doesn’t surprise me.

  • Foot


    You’re acting like Sammy had a choice when he was a kid. Like he chose to be poor and have a drunk dad. C’mon man. Is that the way Democrats think?

    Most Republicans believe that there should be some welfare for people that are down on their luck or struggling with addiction. Look at what Sammy did with his life. He chose not to live like that any more. Now he contributes, to the hundreds of millions, to our shitty, fucked up, economy.

    You may want to rethink your logic.

  • Foot

    I’m an artist and I think both parties suck David Lee Roth’s assless chaps.

    If it wasn’t for shitty government and corporations, have of the songs would have never been written.

  • littledreamer

    I’m sure the poorly written VH statement was a standard response to any party using their music without permission. It showed at the time they didn’t have proper PR to write or review their press releases. Was Janine not on board then?

    Vhnd, bad idea to invite political debate on this site and associate politics with a band that always rejected using their music and fame to air their political views.

  • R A 812

    Remember when VH was just about drinking, smoking, party and getting laid? Now political and sober…..

  • yeahright

    Van Halen, Van Halen news desk, and any other Van Halen site should keep politics OUT of anything they do, exactly as mentioned previously—-because they will lose half of their fan base. If i knew for certain that Ed or Van Halen was backing, or in favor of our current Kenyan numbnut wannabee dicator, well even tho being a lifelong fan of VH I would have to give them the axe for drinking the lookaid and being as ignorant as many others were who put the idiot into offic!! BushW was a numbnut also, just to be fair…bottom line is that there is no place in music for that political crap, even tho there are songs written about it daily. Please erase this article from the VHND archives, and let’s just get back to the music. THANKS!

  • =VH=Rob

    Man, politics are polarizing. Right now, 60% of the Republicans that (not so) silently were embarrassed by Bush and wanted him out now spew their hate for Obama… while defending Bush. Right now, Republicans will be blamed for something that the Democrats did, and the Democrats will be blamed for something the Republicans did. Right now, 33% of the possible GOP candidates for President in 2012 have no idea what the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v Wade. Right now, we’re in a war in Lybia that’s lasted weeks, not days, while we were told the opposite. Come on people, why do you think you have to identify with a group of people and then hate the other half? You really think so strongly that the political party you identify with identifies who you are? So much so you have to call other people stupid and think you’re superior to them because of an affiliation. Get over yourselves. Politicians are over you. They just want your vote and your cash donations.

    Van Halen didn’t want their song used because they didn’t want to be tied to whatever these candidates were saying. Their music doesn’t serve a purpose for a political agenda, it’s their feeling about certain things at a certain time. “Right now oil companies and old men are in control”; was true in the 90’s, was true 7 years ago, and is still true today. Doesn’t matter which political party is in control. The only way this country will change is if people stop spewing hate and realize that the propaganda politicians put out there serves one purpose; to get elected. That’s it.

    Don’t believe everything you hear and start thinking for yourselves. Unless it’s about a rumored Van Halen album. We must all believe in that.

  • VHOldtimer

    @Scott, FAMAC, Foot

    You’re right, being Republican doesn’t require being opposed to welfare. But I’m talking about Sammy getting welfare when he WAS an able-bodied adult, with his own wife and kid to support. He was able to get work, but chose not to work, to try to be a rock star. If he hadn’t been successful (what are the odds!) then he’s just another “welfare queen”. Not that I’ve got any problem with that, personally.

    Now I promise not to talk politics here again…

  • wooten

    I bet they wouldn’t tell Republicans that they don’t want their business. Big deal, a party you don’t agree with uses your song. Grow up. I hate politics in music. Regardless of which side.

  • PeteP

    Obama and the Democrats are a disaster and they are well on their way to bankrupting the country. The only sensible party is the Tea Party with the GOP second. And IIRC, Sammy had no problem with this song being used during McCain’s campaign. Dave is also a strong supporter of Israel, so I would imagine that he would have issues with Obama who clearly hates Israel.

    Time magazine is run by left-wing progressives and it lost credibility a long time ago.

  • Scott

    Hey Oldtimer… Agreed.

  • Foot

    All I can say is thank God our government supported Sammy while he was working on his chops to become a professional singer…I’m sure he’s paid them back over a million times in income taxes and sales taxes (fed and state).

    The book was pretty good…went on to become a NYT bestseller.

  • Top Jimmy

    What exactly is the “USA” religion? I love how the racists are so proud of being racist. What a country!!!

  • whambamsam

    Who the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge cares??? This isn’t the place for anyone’s political rant, folks…

    Political fanaticism has become ridiculous in this country – especially when less than 50% of our residents vote in their local elections…maybe we’re ALL wrong, eh?

  • BrianG

    Frankly, “Right Now” all politicians suck regardless of party. If I was an artist I wouldn’t want my music associated with any of them.



  • Shan Halen

    Eddie seems to love the idea of the opportunity that America offers. I loved his speech at the Spike TV Awards a couple of years ago. He stated, “When my Mom and Dad and brother and I first came to America when I was 7 years old we came here with 50 bucks and a piano – I’m living proof – anything is achievable.” Additionally, I remember reading/hearing that Eddie was awed by the fact that US troops would listen to VH before going on a mission.

  • jimbo

    As a lifelong Republican AND a lifelong Van Halen fan, it kind of pisses me off! Who cares if Bush, McCain and Palin played the song! VH should be glad a song that old is still relevant, and furthermore, it’s free publicity! Actors and musicians should act and make music, and stay out of politics. Oh yeah, and we’re so much better off with Obama in office right? It’s time for him to go…..RIGHT NOW!!!

  • jimbo

    By the way, my wife and I were at the VH concert in Jacksonville, Fla. on September of 2004, and we, along with everybody around us were not amused with President Bush’s image on the screen with the lyrics displayed. We thought it was a poor choice. I can tell you in Jacksonville, most VH fans are also middle class Republicans. It might be cool to bash Republicans in L.A. or other places, but not so much in north Florida.

  • Dooley

    You rock Jimbo !!

  • hagarhalen

    Great song and Van Halen camp should take the publicity, oh yeah Eddie doesn’t know how to work with the public lately, anyone seen there website latley. Sammy Hagar is a Conservative, but desn’t support either Democrats or Republicans.

  • hagarhalen

    Oh yeah the next President of the USA 2012 played it and so did his future running mate;

    Mitt Romney and Scott Brown. no stopping them like there was no stopping Van Halen back in 1993 with “Right Now” !!

  • Cam Winston

    Why am I not shocked that the Roth Jock Sniffers that screw up every thread on this site are Obamaniacs?


    As long as someone pays the appropriate royalties to the RIAA, anyone can play the song(s) anywhere they like. All the libs who complain every election are doing nothing than making themselves feel better by going to the press in order to get some kudos from their fellow haters (who don’t know the law, either, apparently).