The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Steven Tyler tells Congress to walk his way on copyright

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Some lobbyists have to pound the sidewalks, while others let lawmakers come to them. If you’re rocker-turned-advocate Steven Tyler, it’s members of Congress who come a-calling — like Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who actually hopped up on stage with the Aerosmith frontman at a Tuesday-night concert near the Capitol building to join him on the coda to “Walk This Way.”

Or Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla..), and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who dropped by the green room before the concert, sponsored by the National Music Publishers Association, to meet with him.

Onstage, with a view of the Capitol in the background, Tyler capped off a few days of lobbying with renditions of hits like “Cryin'” and “Dream On,” to a crowd of suits who looked like they were reliving their high-school days. The musician spent his visit to Washington meeting with members of Congress to talk about stronger protection for songwriters in the copyright system, including against having their work used, willy-nilly, in samples or mashups by other artists.

Tyler insisted in an interview before the show that he just wants to be a passionate voice in Washington for songwriters — not just the “rich rock stars” like him. “Hopefully, I can touch them, like a modern-day Will Rogers,” he says, evoking the folksy actor-turned advocate of the 1920s and ’30s. “He’d stand up and speak and everyone would listen.”

Here’s Tyler, making the rounds:

And in true Washington form, lawyers from the National Music Publishers Association checked, pre-concert, to make sure that they had the rights to all of the songs performed that evening — including “Happy Birthday,” which was played in recogniztion of Tyler’s 66th birthday, which fell on Wednesday.

Yep, the tune is copyrighted; yep, singing it to Tyler was A-OK, say the lawyers — and yup, he can still pull off the rock-star act, post-retirement age.