Under the Radar

Rock Stars Say "Air Force Reserve Stole Our Song"



The White Stripes were understandably pissed off after the Air Force Reserve ran a commercial during the Super Bowl that ripped off their song "Fell in Love With a Girl."

The band released a statement on their website:

"We believe our song was re-recorded and used without permission of the White Stripes, our publishers, label or management."
So far, so good. It's pretty obvious that the commercial uses a new instrumental recording of their song and, under our current copyright laws, the Air Force Reserve can't do that without permission.

If the statement stopped there, they'd have most everyone's sympathy and support. But things keep going:

"The White Stripes take strong insult and objection to the Air Force Reserve's presenting this advertisement with the implication that we licensed one of our songs to encourage recruitment during a war that we do not support."
OK, then. Let's take this apart. The Air Force Reserve hired an ad agency in Denver to create this (not very good) commercial. The agency bought the audio track from a freelance composer named Kem Kraft, who's now stepped up to take all the blame for the mistake:
"I’m sorry it sounds the same. It wasn’t my intention, truly, truly, truly....[If the White Stripes] want to call me and talk to me, as far as I’m concerned, I’m responsible for this. Just me.”
Know what you should really be mad about? To please stock market analysts and increase their share price, American businesses have fired so many workers that there's no one left who can recognize a giant hit song from less than a decade ago. People are so overworked in their contract labor jobs (that don't include health insurance) that they mistake a riff they already knew for a bolt of inspiration when they're on deadline.

Most of us would disagree with the band, but you  could understand if the White Stripes categorically opposed the use of their songs for anything to do with the U.S. military. Instead, they try to split the difference, opposing use of their song for "recruitment during a war that we do not support."

Which war are they talking about? The war on terror? The war in Afghanistan? The war in Iraq? Any potential future war on a natural disaster that reservists might be asked to fight?

Back to the band's statement:

"The White Stripes support this nation's military, at home and during times when our country needs and depends on them. We simply don't want to be a cog in the wheel of the current conflict, and hope for a safe and speedy return home for our troops."
Jack White's always made a point of talking about his working-class background, so it's kind of surprising to see him try to embrace the whole suburban "oppose the war but respect the troops" fallacy. I'm sure he knows the facts from people he grew up with: soldiers don't get to choose which orders they follow once they've chosen to serve and it's impossible to predict which orders they might be asked to follow at the time they're being recruited.

Really, look at the facts: their song got ripped off, either by accident or by a composer who thought he changed things just enough to get away with it. There's no conspiracy to connect the band to a war they "do not support," just a misuse of the song in a pretty lame and ineffective TV spot.

The White Stripes (along with Jack White's other bands The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather) have made some of the greatest music we've heard over the last ten years. Jack's consistently shown an intelligence and good taste that most of his peers have lacked.

Part of me thinks that the band's statement was dashed off by a publicist or management intern during the initial flash of anger from the band. Someone used their music without permission. That's reason enough to blow up, but the flames should have stopped there.

For anyone who doesn't know the White Stripes original, the video is embedded below:

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