Slogans for Sale

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


One afternoon in the late 1980s, I was vegging in front of the tube when a mysterious ad for a new amusement park ride called the Revolution came on. Its coolly contradictory tag line was hard to forget: “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised!” Of course, that catchphrase wasn’t written by a copywriter but Gil Scott-Heron, the poet and musician who’d originally sung it as a declaration of independence from the very folks who’d take his lyrical manifesto and turn it into a 30-second earworm for pubescent cartoon watchers. How his signature song ended up in a Great America ad, I have no idea. But Scott-Heron, whom Alan Light profiles in our current issue, wasn’t the first nor the last musician to have his or her message repackaged for prime time. Some more examples of turning musical rebellion into money: 

1987 Gil Scott-Heron’s proto-hip-hop anthem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” goes for a spin in a TV ad for Great America’s new ride, the Revolution.

1987 Michael Jackson, owner of the Beatles catalog, lets Nike use “Revolution”—the first Fab Four song to appear in a TV commercial. Yoko Ono says the spot “is making John’s music accessible to a new generation.”

1995 KRS-One rewrites “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” for a Nike ad. Sample lyrics: “The revolution will not refrain from chest bumping…The revolution is about basketball, and basketball is the truth!”

2000 The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” takes a bow for the new revolution—the Nissan Maxima.

2005 Tommy Hilfiger conscripts Jefferson Airplane’s “Volunteers” (“Got to revolution!”) for a spot filled with teen hotties.

2005 Lefty rocker Steve Earle okays the use of his “The Revolution Starts Now” in a Chevy truck ad.

2007 Janis Joplin’s anti-consumerist ditty “Mercedes Benz” becomes a feel-good jingle for…Mercedes-Benz.

2009 A British “ethical banking” firm convinces Bob Dylan to lend the rights to “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Watch some of the ads below the jump.

 

 

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.