Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is being sued by the Survivor guitarist Frank Sullivan regarding his use of the song “Eye of the Tiger” at a rally held in support of the controversial Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis in September.
Davis was jailed for six days following her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, contravening a U.S. Supreme Court ruling taken in June that the right to marriage is guaranteed to same-sex couples by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Davis was greeted by her husband, Joe Davis, her attorney, and Huckabee upon her release from Carter County detention center on September 8 and a loudspeaker system played “Eye of the Tiger” as she took to a temporary stage to address assembled supporters and the media.
The use of “Eye of the Tiger” drew an immediate rebuke from Survivor, who took to the band’s official Facebook page to confirm that the song was played without the authors’ consent. Now, co-writer Sullivan has brought legal proceedings against the Huckabee for President campaign organization for the unauthorized public performance of his artwork.
Reuters reports that Sullivan filed the lawsuit on Wednesday, claiming that Huckabee’s use of “Eye of the Tiger” infringed upon his personal copyright held in the name of his publishing company, Rude Music. The complaint was filed in Sullivan’s home state of Illinois where he asked a federal judge to determine potential damages and requested that Huckabee cease using the song without the writers’ consent.
Sullivan will claim that Huckabee’s breach of copyright was wilful owing to the fact that the former Arkansas Governor plays bass in a band of his own, Capital Offense, and has previously been sued by other musicians for non-consensual use of their work.
Released in May, 1982 “Eye of the Tiger” shot to prominence after being used as the theme song for the film “Rocky III,” which came out a day before the single. The song enjoyed global success, holding the number one slot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for six consecutive weeks.
Sullivan, however, took immediate umbrage at the fact that Huckabee used the song without consulting him and made clear his anger at the christian minister’s action in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine days after Davis’ release.
“I do not like mixing rock and roll with politics; they do not go hand in hand,” Sullivan said. “What upset me most [about Huckabee’s use] was that, once again, my song was being used to further a political agenda – and no one even bothered to ask for permission.”
Frankie Sullivan of Survivor Condemns Davis & Huckabee's use of "Eye of the Tiger" http://t.co/aybJHx0qDj— Jake Goldman (@chaim_ahron) September 10, 2015
This is the second time in three years that Sullivan has been moved to take legal action against a Republican presidential candidate for the unauthorized use of “Eye of the Tiger.” In 2012 Newt Gingrich was forced to agree an out of court settlement with Sullivan after repeatedly using the Survivor song at rallies during his campaign without formal consent. It may well be the case that the Huckabee controversy concludes in a similar fashion.
Sullivan’s case is made persuasive owing to the central role that “Eye of the Tiger” played in the rally celebrating Davis’ release. The opening lines of the song – “Risin’ up, back on the street, did my time, took my chances” – suggest that Huckabee selected “Eye of the Tiger” specifically to mirror Davis’ experience and parallel her resilience in the face of adversity with that of the fictitious boxer, Rocky Balboa, portrayed in the film with which the track is most closely associated.
Huckabee is far from the first politician to be sued for the unauthorized use of a musician’s work.
Talking Heads band member David Byrne, for instance, sued former Florida Governor Charlie Crist for $1 million for his use of the song “Road to Nowhere” in 2010 while Tom Petty was forced to issue “cease and desist” letters to both Michele Bachmann and President George W. Bush for their use of his songs in recent years.
Sullivan’s suing Huckabee for playing “Eye of the Tiger” is thus unlikely to be the last such case that we see in American politics.
[Steve Pope/Getty Images]