Brow Beat

Trump Played “Happy” at a Rally Hours After the Pittsburgh Shooting, and Pharrell Is Not OK With It

Pharrell Williams wears a black suit and bowtie.
Pharrell Williams attends the City of Hope Spirit of Life Gala 2018 on Oct. 11 in Santa Monica, California.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

On Saturday, just hours after 11 people were murdered at a Pittsburgh synagogue by a terrorist targeting Jews, Trump went forward with a planned campaign rally in Illinois, playing Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” at the event. In response, Williams’ attorney has issued a cease-and-desist letter against Trump’s camp, demanding that the president never use any of Williams’ music again.

“On the day of the mass murder of 11 human beings at the hands of a deranged ‘nationalist,’ you played [Williams’] song ‘Happy’ to a crowd at a political event,” reads the letter from Howard King. “There was nothing ‘happy’ about the tragedy inflicted upon our country on Saturday, and no permission was granted for your use of this song for this purpose. … Demand is hereby made that you cease and desist from any further unauthorized use of Pharrell Williams’ music.”

This is not the first time Trump has used artists’ music without their permission. In June 2015 he announced his candidacy using unauthorized music right off the bat with Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” prompting Young’s team to make the following statement: “Donald Trump was not authorized to use ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ in his presidential candidacy announcement. Neil Young, a Canadian citizen, is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for President of the United States of America.”

Since then a long list of musicians have made similar objections after Trump events, including R.E.M., Queen, and Aerosmith.