John Hall was watching CNN's coverage of a President Bush rally Thursday night when he heard a song with a familiar ring to it. It was "Still the One," by the pop band Orleans, a tune the Bush campaign has been using to stoke the crowd at campaign events in recent days.
The song is familiar to Hall because he wrote it, along with ex-wife Johanna Hall, and rode it up the charts as Orleans's lead singer in 1976. Hall was not flattered by the revival of his hit. Quite the contrary: Hall thinks Bush has been a disastrous president and is mortified that people might think that the Bush campaign's embrace of "Still the One" constitutes an endorsement by Orleans, in the way that Bruce Springsteen is prominently backing John F. Kerry.
From his home in New York's Hudson Valley, Hall took action. He called Kerry's national headquarters, but could not get past the computerized operator. He figured Ohio is a swing state, so a real person must be working there. That was a shrewd call. He got Jennifer Palmieri, a veteran Democratic press operative who is running communications in Ohio for Kerry. As Hall's luck would have it, Palmieri was sitting next to a Washington Post reporter visiting the Ohio headquarters.
Delighted at the chance to vent, Hall said "my mouth dropped open" when he heard his song being used at the rally. "That's my composition, my guitar, my voice" -- all being used on behalf of a president he deplores. Hall said he's going to be in touch with his music publisher, EMI Music, to see if the Bush-Cheney campaign is violating the song's copyright. Even if it's a not a violation in the strict sense, Hall fumed, "it's in violation of the spirit of the law."