After organizing a solid platform, devising a shrewd get-out-the-vote strategy, and ironing out countless important details, a political candidate is finally faced with the only electoral decision that actually matters: choosing a soundtrack. The right campaign anthem has the power to crystallize a message or inspire dedicated supporters. It can even achieve the minor miracle of making a very stiff white man in a suit appear slightly less square, if only temporarily.
John F. Kennedy was propelled into office in 1960 thanks in small part to Frank Sinatra’s “High Hopes,” including a rendition with election-appropriate lyrics sung by Ol’ Blue Eyes himself. More than 30 years later, Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” gave Bill Clinton’s baby boomer supporters a rollicking sense of optimism. (The propulsive Christine McVie-penned track became so synonymous with Clinton’s ’92 run against George H.W. Bush that the notoriously fractured Mac agreed to reunite in order to play Clinton’s inauguration.)
While the campaign song can be a unifying force, it’s not a silver bullet. It cannot, for instance, make an obvious also-ran suddenly seem viable. In ’96 there wasn’t a tune in the universe that could’ve pushed Bob Dole into the White House. Still, his campaign brain trust gave it a shot with Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man,” which carried the predictably corrupted refrain “I’m a Dole man.” The copyright holder sent a cease and desist in response.
Plenty of artists have publicly objected to a political candidate using their songs. Ronald Reagan didn’t comprehend the cutting commentary of liberal Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” More recently Neil Young denounced Donald Trump for playing “Rockin’ in the Free World.” In turn the musician gave Bernie Sanders usage rights. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton reportedly has been entering campaign events to the strains of Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song.”
The issue of a fitting campaign soundtrack is typically the province of presidential candidates, but theme music could probably stand to be employed more often in local races—if only to add a little pizzazz to the usually dour proceedings, especially with the Illinois primary approaching on March 15. There is one local candidate in particular who might want to consider adopting a piece of music that—due mostly to coincidental wordplay—is just too good to pass up.
The candidate: Kim Foxx, who’s made a strong run for Cook County state’s attorney against incumbent Anita Alvarez. The proposed campaign anthem: the Sweet’s 70s hit “Fox on the Run,” naturally. (Specifically the better-known, radio-friendly 1975 seven-inch version.) Ignore all the lyrics in the verses, which mostly serve to lob seemingly unprovoked insults at rock groupies, and the song would raise the roof at rallies. It’s upbeat, infectious—and Foxx surely can’t beat the play on words. If candidates were judged on monster guitar riffs alone, Foxx would be a shoo-in with “Fox on the Run” as a theme.
Literal-minded political observers with a even a cursory knowledge of 70s glam will say, But it’s actually Foxx that has Alvarez on the run. That’s true. Foxx, the former chief of staff to Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle, has certainly benefitted from her clout-heavy ex-boss’s backing as Alvarez has taken considerable flack from critics who say she’s bungled one too many police misconduct cases during her tenure.
To which I say: sure, maybe “Fox on the Run” isn’t an utterly unassailable campaign anthem. But put simply, the song rocks. And for Foxx, who’s trying to make a big noise against a wounded yet familiar incumbent, it would certainly be better than the sound of silence.