Bruce Hornsby and his collaborators in the musical SCKBSTD may have knocked their song about Donald Trump — “The Don of Dons” — out of the production, but it’s experienced a rejuvenation during the past year since Trump announced his presidential campaign. Now, fans in the know have started calling for it at Hornsby’s concerts.
“I get requests to sing it quite often from people who really follow me and know the song,” says Hornsby, who releases Rehab Reunion, his first piano-less album, on June 17. But not everybody has been amused: Hornsby recalls a show in Wichita, Kansas, after which he received Facebook messages from fans put off by the tune.
“I got these two nasty letters from people who said, ‘I just walked out when you started bad-mouthing Donald Trump,'” recalls Hornsby, who felt moved to reply. “I said to them, ‘Dear sir and madam, I ran into Donald Trump at a Knicks game a few years ago and sang this song to him, and he quite liked it and he reached into his wallet and gave me not one, but two business cards and said “When [the musical] gets to New York, give me a call. This I’ve got to see!” You’ve mistaken this song to be negative towards Mr. Trump. It is not.'” The writers subsequently apologized for misinterpreting it.
In initial versions of SCKBSTD (aka “Sick Bastard”) — with music and lyrics by Hornsby and his childhood friend Chip deMatteo and a book by Clay McLeod Champman — “The Don of Dons” was certainly played for comic effect. With lines such as “Television has added to Trump’s fame and power/ You can watch his ministrations coming from Trump Tower/ Watch until you’re tired/ Or at least until you’re fired/ It’s a glorious, wonderful way to spend a surplus hour,” the song related to an addled grandfather who thought he was Trump. In the current version, however, Trump has been swapped for 13th U.S. President Millard Fillmore. Nevertheless, Trump says he and deMatteo “are on the case” in writing updated lyrics to reflect Trump’s candidacy.
But don’t expect to hear Hornsby (not a Trump supporter) performing “The Don of Dons” at the Republican National Convention next month in Cleveland or at Trump campaign rallies. “For a long time to me, it was just comedy,” Hornsby says, “because I tend to look at things in that way … and he would just become so apoplectic in those debates. Of course it was abhorrent, but to me it was also comedic. But at this point, it’s a little dark. … Winston Churchill had the greatest quote to me that just sums all this up: ‘The best case against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.’ That to me says it all. That’s the only way I can explain this Trump craziness.”
SCKBSTD premiered in January 2011, performed by the Virginia Stage Company in Norfolk, Virginia. A table read of the latest version of the musical will take place during late July in New York. Hornsby, meanwhile, returns to the road June 21 for a show with Ricky Skaggs and his Kentucky Thunder, then hits the road to support Rehab Reunion with his band the Noisemakers.