back to start
Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 12.35.22 AM
The former Fugee announced his candidacy for president of Haiti in 2010, after stepping down as the head of his questionably run charitable relief organization Yéle Haiti. Unfortunately for Haiti’s surely-legion fans of The Ecleftic, Wyclef’s candidacy was rejected due to his not having lived in the country for at least five years. Longtime Haiti booster Win Butler criticized Wyclef’s candidacy, saying “Arnold Schwarzenegger only speaking Austrian German and being elected president of the United States after New York City and LA had burned to the ground”. Oof, you know your chances are pretty slim when Win Butler of all people is dunking on you.
The Dead Kennedys frontman ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1997, coming in fourth out of a field of 10 candidates. Not bad for someone who campaigned on making businessmen wear clown suits, erecting statues of Dan White on street corners for public egging, and (sadly, perhaps most absurd to voters) requiring policemen to be elected, and legalizing squatting. Recognizing his political acumen, the New York State Green Party later nominated Biafra as their Presidential candidate in 2000, but Jello lost to Ralph Nader.
Blur's David Rowntree
Blur drummer David Rowntree has attempted to enter the UK political arena on behalf of the Labour Party on four separate occasions, but has thus far been unsuccessful. Most notably, he lost a supposedly completely safe (since 1960!) Labour seat to the Conservatives in 2008. His latest attempt was back in 2011, when he fought to become the Labour candidate for the Norwich South constituency, but lost to Clive Lewis, a former soldier and current journalist. Perhaps it’s time to head back to the Think Tank. It’s too bad: Labour could’ve really used a Magic Whip. OK, I’ll stop now.
The legendary Afrobeat architect ran for president of his native Nigeria in 1983, but found his candidacy refused by the political establishment of time. Kuti’s campaign had always been a dodgy proposition: many of those in power had been excoriated at one time or another in one of his ‘yabis’, or improvised spoken word performances. Fela formed his own political party called Movement of the People to support his candidacy in order to, in his words, ‘clean up society like a mop’. It’s unfortunate Kuti, who died in 1997, never got his political shot: anyone who can keep 27 concurrent marriages together can probably get a lot done.
Pentagram's Eduardo Topelberg
Topelberg, the drummer for Chilean first-wave death metallers Pentagram (now known as Pentagram Chile to avoid confusion the American band of the same name) ran for election as a councilor in Ñuñoa in 2012, but was soundly defeated. Perhaps voters (of whom only a low 41% turned out that year) were turned off by his association with an act whose dulcet ballads include “Demoniac Possession” and “Fatal Predictions”.
Senegalese superstar N’Dour, known across Africa for popularizing the genre of dance music known as mbalax, was described by Rolling Stone in 2004 as “perhaps the most famous singer alive” in Senegal and Africa as a whole. N’Dour tried to parlay that popularity into becoming president of Senegal in 2012, but his candidacy was called into question and eventually disqualified when authenticity issues were raised regarding signatures he’d collected.
DOA's Joey Shithead
Canada’s punk mainstay ran in B.C. provincial elections in both 1996 and 2001, both times for the B.C. Greens, before briefly switching political allegiance in 2013 to try and lock down an NDP nomination ahead of the provincial election. Shithead (government name: Joe Keithley) was recently nominated as the Greens’ candidate for an upcoming B.C. provincial by-election, so fingers crossed he’ll be ineligible for this list in a few weeks.
Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 12.37.20 AM
2 Live Crew's Luther Campbell
The 2 Live Crew mastermind pulled in a more-than-respectable 11% of the vote when he ran for mayor in 2011, placing fourth out of 11 candidates. Miami-Dade County: As Nasty As They Wanna Be (11%).
Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 12.38.30 AM
98 Degrees' Justin Jeffre
Sadly, the former boy band heartthrob wasn’t hot enough to ignite the tinder hearts of Cincinnati voters: he only garnered 1.5% of the vote when he ran for mayor in 2005. Even a Nick Lachey endorsement couldn’t fire up his campaign.
You might think being a successful musician would make for an easy transition into politics, and in many cases you’d be right: just look at Midnight Oil’s Peter Garrett, who successfully parlayed his anthem about the dangers of inflammable mattresses into a lengthy political career in his native Australia, or the wild political ascendancy of Korn frontman Barack Obama.
Then again, they might just be outliers: the political highways are littered with the flamed-out hulks that are the campaigns of many a Wyclef or a David Rowntree. If you’re a superstar musician looking to make the leap into public life, learn from the stories of these 9 rockin’ electoral hopefuls that didn’t win hearts and minds off the stage.