Musicians Who Got Political: The Rocky Road From The Stage to Public Office

Kid Rock performs at Trump Taj Mahal Casino on the 4th of July.
Chris Polk/FilmMagic

Kid Rock performs at Trump Taj Mahal Casino on the 4th of July.

Musicians and politicians have a lot in common - or so it seems. Both have to engage the public and often try to push for a cause or to deliver a message. Kanye West is promising his candidacy on the 2020 presidential ballot; Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is supposedly another choice for The Oval. They know how to engage large crowds at concert venues, so why not give it a shot? "How hard can it be?" was the slogan of a failed governor of Texas Richard S. Kinky Friedman, and the answer was clearly "Very!"

Kid Rock is the latest celebrity to contemplate a change of career. The musician's name was floated as a Senate Candidate at a Republican Convention in February and a new Kid Rock for Senate website went live on Wednesday (July 12). "Kid Rock for Senate" merch can even be found at his Warner Bros. Records page.

Perhaps a bid for The White House or The Senate is the latest version of a relationship hoax to promote new music and get your name out there in the media. If so, it seems to be working. A few decades ago it would seem unthinkable to have someone with no political experience holding prominent positions in the government, yet after the 2016 election anything seems possible... it's just very hard to pull off. 

Take a look at professional musicians who also performed on the political stage: 

1. Krist Novoselic, Nirvana. An honorary member of the "Grange Party" (you haven't heard of it, because there is no such party) ran for Wahkiakum County Clerk position in 2009. Why? To stand up to Washington's laws that allow anyone under any party to run for office. 

Did he win? Alas, no. 
Where is he now? Still a musician.

2. Wyclef Jean. In 2010, after hurricane relief charity work, Wyclef Jean decided to take his efforts one step further - to the President's office. It all came down to his eligibility as a Haiti resident. Speaking neither Creole, nor French did not help his case, even after all the work he put in to help hurricane-ravaged Haiti. 

Did he win? No, Haiti residents were too skeptical of his competence. 
Where is he now? A musician, and a writer

3. Sonny Bono. A rare successful example of a musician-turned-politician, Bono was mayor of Palm Springs for four years (1988-1992). Frustrated after trying to open a restaurant, Bono decided to make changes from the inside, from the Mayor's office. In 1994, he went even further and got elected to the US House of Representatives where he served until his death in 1998. 

Did he win? Yes and Yes. 
Where is he now? In our fond memories as both a musician and a politician. 

4. Martha Reeves. In 2005, she wanted to try herself in the Detroit City Council. Martha Reeves spoke on behalf of musicians for better wages and royalties in front of Congress in 2007. Losing the reelection two years later, the lead singer of Motown girl group Martha Reeves and the Vandellas turned back to music. She is now a full-time performer with more than 50 shows annually. 

Did she win? Yes. 
Where is she now? Performing and looking after her family, as she has three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. 

5. Richard S. Kinky Friedman. "How hard can it be?' was the slogan of the Texas Governor Candidate. Drawing less than 13% of the vote, he was sorely disappointed when it turned out to be very hard. Kinky was not deterred and might try running again in the future. 

Did he win? No. 
Where is he now? Writing music.

6. John Hall. From 2007 to 2011, he held a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives (from the Democratic party). Expressing his interest in legalizing recreational drug use was not enough to keep him in the House, as the 19th district of New York did not want him back in 2010.

Did he win? The first time, but lost the re-election.
Where is he now? Performing solo and with his group Orleans.

7. Jerry ButlerAs the longest-serving Board Commissioner for Cook County, Illinois, Jerry Butler is still better known as a soul singer and songwriter. He continued to perform while serving, and recently also served on the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. You may have heard of him as one of the original members of the R&B vocal group the Impressions

Did he win? Yes. 
Where is he now? Still there (ever since the 1980s). 

8. Jon Fishman. A member of the Phish musical group, Jon Fishman recently ran for a selectman position in Lincolnville, Maine. Crediting Bernie Sanders as his inspiration to try his hand in politics, he is now drumming up support for the issues familiar to any Bernie supporter. 

Did he win? Yes, he was elected to the city council of the small community in June 2017. 
Where is he now? On tour with Phish in between his meetings with the Council. 

9. Clay AikenA musician, politician, activist, actor, author, and television personality - Clay Aiken can seemingly do anything life throws at him. At only 38, the American Idol star is still exploring his career options. In 2014, he ran for Congress in North Carolina's 2nd congressional district and went as far as winning the Democratic Primary. 

Did he win? No, he was not an idol of choice for the voters. 
Where is he now? Performing and discussing his political opinions on TV. 

10. Waka Flocka Flame. A possible presidential candidate, the rapper promised to run for office in 2012 and indeed launched a campaign in 2015. He intended to legalize weed, ban dogs in restaurants and impose restrictions on people with big feet (we never got to find out how the last promise would have held up). Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were not impressed, and clearly the voters were not either.

Did he win? No.
Where is he now? Rapping and writing music.  

11. 2 Chainz. The rapper wanted to do "this little mayor thing" for his hometown of College Park, Georgia, back in 2013. 

Did he win? No, as he didn't end up running. 
Where is he now? Still in the rap industry. 

It also works the other way around:

Condoleezza Rice, The Secretary of State for George W. Bush, almost became a concert pianist. She even performed for Queen Elizabeth II at the Buckingham Palace. 

As for Kid Rock, keep your eyes on Twitter for further announcements and check out the "campaign site" to get a shirt that lets everyone around you know who you want in The Senate. 

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