Tunes about Trump: Why these Canadian musicians won't just 'shut up and sing'

Sure, he's not their president.

But that's not stopping some Canadian musicians from penning Donald Trump-tinged tunes and putting out music videos ripe with anti-Trump imagery.

They join the many American musicians fighting Donald Trump's presidency through song. It's an obvious platform for a ticked-off American musician. But why do Canucks feel the need to chime in too?

Hollerado frontman Menno Versteeg likens it to a love song. 

"Every single love song has been written. But when you have your heart broken or you've fallen in love, you want to express your version of that song," he said.

"It's kind of the same … it's like, finally we've had enough and we kind of needed to express that."


The Ottawa band's new tune, Grief Money, tackles leaders who put money ahead of people; its music video stars Trump on the campaign trail, mouthing along to the lyrics.

The song was actually written before Trump was even in the running for president, but Versteeg said he ended up fitting the role. "It was an unhappy coincidence."

'Who tells Jann Arden to shut up and sing?'

​Versteeg knows he is singing to people with similar views — "People in the Deep South aren't listening to Hollerado." But the band has come across a few haters online, including a Twitter user who has been badgering Canadian musicians like Jann Arden for criticizing Trump.

"He said to her 'shut up and sing.' Who tells Jann Arden to shut up and sing?"

The phrase hearkens back to the early 2000s, when outspoken American musicians the Dixie Chicks got similar threats for criticizing George W. Bush during a concert. A documentary about the band was named just that: Shut Up and Sing, taking a lyric from their song Not Ready to Make Nice.

That's no surprise to David Clayton-Thomas, because he has seen a few comments like that directed at him.

The former Blood, Sweat and Tears singer put out his own tune about Trump based on a satirical poem he wrote the morning after the election. The result was Ode to the Donald.

"I'm a Canadian and some might say 'What right do you have commenting on an American election?'"


Clayton-Thomas takes issue with that. He said the decisions Trump makes will have a big impact on Canadians, something he is encouraging fellow musicians to bring up in their music.

"We have that forum and it's up to us to speak out," he said. "It's our duty."

Unlike some other protest songs, Clayton-Thomas' tune isn't intended to bash Trump. Rather, he calls on Trump to follow through on his promises and to "be careful" what he wished for during the campaign.

"I felt a certain sympathy for Trump, even though I don't particularly like the man," he said. "It's not an attack. I'm not attacking Trump. I'm showing the total absurdity of the entire process."

'You're allowed to have an opinion'

Wintersleep were one of the early Canadian bands to feature Trump in their music during his presidential run. In the music video for their song Amerika, they used an excerpt from one of his speeches to highlight the song's critique of the American dream. This was well before Trump was even chosen as the Republican Party's presidential nominee.

Frontman Paul Murphy said it is condescending to think musicians can't speak out about politics, even politics in another country. He brings up the Tragically Hip's Gord Downie, who called on Justin Trudeau to take action on behalf of Canada's Indigenous people during a concert in Kingston last summer.

"I think if you can bring awareness to and fight for causes [in which] you believe using whatever platform you have available — go for it," Murphy said in an email. "You're allowed to have an opinion and you're allowed to share it as loudly as you want."


Versteeg is not sure what impact his song will have; he just wanted to have the band's opinion known. He doesn't care if people are critical, though he is a tad nervous about the band's show in Moscow later this month — the same video takes a dig at Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"To be honest, I'm pretty disillusioned with all politicians," he admits.

Though he will make an exception and that's playing music with politicians; he says he's into "bipartisan" jamming. Hollerado once played Chumbawamba's party anthem Tubthumping while then Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau joined them on vocals.

"I would jam with Trump in two seconds."