Chris Christie's Presidential Bid: Will Other New Jersey Musicians Give the Governor Their Songs?

Pat DiNizio The Smithereens 1987
Frans Schellekens/Redferns

Pat diNizio with band The Smithereens perform at the Paradiso on June 18, 1987 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Smithereens singer Pat DiNizio was out in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, on an errand when he noticed a “big commotion”: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was heading to a fundraiser for a teen with a physical disability and a crowd was starting to gather.

DiNizio tried to go around it and avoid the situation entirely, but then he heard a voice trying to get his attention: It was Christie.

“He called out to me and said, ‘Pat, how was the Tom Petty tour?’” said DiNizio. “Apparently he is a fan. We had just gotten off the road with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I found it funny that he recognized me walking in the crowd.”

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DiNizio made his way over to the governor and “shook his hand, the way a couple of guys from Jersey would, because we are all sort of outspoken,” he said.

On Tuesday morning (June 30), Christie announced his intentions to run for president, and DiNizio said that while the governor “does seem genuine,” the New Jersey native and his band the Smithereens “don’t get involved with politics or politicians” and are steering clear of endorsements.

DiNizio, who identifies himself as an Independent, knows a little something about politics: The singer ran for a Senate seat in New Jersey for the Reform Party in 2000, a run that was chronicled in the film Mr. Smithereen Goes to Washington.

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Asked if the band would grant permission to the governor if he wanted to use music for his campaign, DiNizio just laughed. “Realistically, what song of ours could he possibly use even if he did ask?” he said. “'Blood and Roses'? 'Behind the Wall of Sleep'? 'Only a Memory'? 'A Girl Like You'? The surest way for him to lose would be to use one of our songs. It’s dark, brooding, minor-key material. Nothing personal; we wouldn’t let any politician use our music.”

Christie has already come out of the gate announcing his 2016 presidential candidacy during a rally at his old high school in Livingston, N.J., with a quartet of Bon Jovi songs: “Because We Can,” “We Weren’t Born to Follow,” “It’s My Life” and “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?” with Jennifer Nettles.

“My friendships are apolitical and yes, I absolutely gave him permission to use the songs,” Bon Jovi, a Democrat, told Billboard through a spokesperson. 

That is good news for Christie, because he may have a tough time clearing music from other musicians in the Garden State.

“First of all, anyone in the year 2015 who announces, as president, he plans to come down on the legality of a plant that naturally grows out of the earth is obviously a jackass,” said New Brunswick native Glen Burtnik, formerly of Styx and a current touring member of The Orchestra (with former members of ELO) and leader of the power-pop band The Weeklings. "So as for him using my music -- absolutely not!”

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John Easdale, of Wayne, N.J.’s Dramarama, said, “The country would benefit from a semi-large pool of candidates to draw from on both sides.”

“I honestly don't know if I would be comfortable with any candidate, Republican or Democrat, using my songs in a campaign ... not that anybody has asked, nor that anything I've written would even be considered appropriate,” Easdale said. “Living now in California, I have had the good fortune to be unaffected and at times entertained by Governor Christie’s administration. However, 'entertaining' is not a quality I would find desirable in the president of the United States (President Barack Obama’s occasional bursts of song notwithstanding).”

Easdale added that he admires any candidate brave enough to wade into political waters. “Anyone who has the courage to put themselves out there to be magnified and scrutinized is deserving of respect -- Donald Trump notwithstanding."

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