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Songwriter Protests Use of Country Hit as Palin Campaign Theme Song

StoryNovember 07, 2008
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When Gov. Sarah Palin tried to make the country music hit “Independence Day” her campaign theme song, the woman who wrote it, singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters, fought back. She tells us how. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, talking about women taking power, Gretchen Peters is also with us. She is a singer-songwriter. She wrote the song “Independence Day,” which became a hit for country singer Martina McBride. We played that, her version of it, in the first segment. Well, Gretchen made headlines recently when she protested the use of the song by Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Explain what happened, Gretchen. The night of the vice-presidential debate?

GRETCHEN PETERS: The night — yeah, the night of the vice-presidential debate, I got a phone call after it was over, and it was actually my booking agent, and she said, “Did you hear?” And I hadn’t heard whatever, you know. She said, “They used your song to bring Sarah Palin on stage.” And it’s not the first time, you know, the song has been sort of taken out of context and misused.

AMY GOODMAN: This was in the post-party of the debate?

GRETCHEN PETERS: The post-party, right. But I just — I think the thing that was different about it for me this time was that she really represented — this is a song about domestic abuse. I mean, this is — she represented the opposite of what this song really is all about. And I just — I knew that I didn’t have any legal recourse, but I also felt like I could have — that there was some way for me to make some kind of a statement.

AMY GOODMAN: So how did you do it?

GRETCHEN PETERS: Well, ultimately, I decided to follow the lead of this viral email that was going around, and I donated the royalties during the election cycle, from the time, you know, Sarah Palin was named as the VP candidate, to Planned Parenthood, in her name.

AMY GOODMAN: All the royalties of the song.

GRETCHEN PETERS: From the song, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you play a few verses? Let’s see what we’ve got time for, but we’re not just interested in the chorus; we want to hear this song.


AMY GOODMAN: Ultimately about domestic violence.

GRETCHEN PETERS: OK, alright, you got it. [singing] Well, she seemed all right by dawn’s early light / though she looked a little worried and weak. / She tried to pretend he wasn’t drinking again / but daddy left the proof on her cheek. / I was only eight years old that summer / and I always seemed to be in the way / so I took myself down to the fair in town / on Independence Day. / Well, word gets around in a small, small town. / They said he was a dangerous man. / Mama was proud and she stood her ground / but she knew she was on the losing end. / Some folks whispered, some just talked / but everybody looked the other way. / And when time ran out, there was no one about / on Independence Day. / Let freedom ring. / Let the white dove sing. / Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning. / Let the weak be strong. / Let the right be wrong. / Roll a stone away, let the guilty pay. / It’s Independence Day.

There you go.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Gretchen Peters, I want to thank you very much for being with us.

GRETCHEN PETERS: Thanks for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: And thank you for playing more than a chorus.


AMY GOODMAN: You’re going home to Nashville now?


AMY GOODMAN: And congratulations on this being a CMA hit, country music star and hit.

GRETCHEN PETERS: Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: And thanks so much to Nancy Mosher of Planned Parenthood Action Fund in Northern New England.

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