Country singer counters Obama's rapper admirers with anthem to raise McCain

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The Independent US

With John McCain closing the gap on Barack Obama, and some polls showing America's presidential race neck-and-neck, the Republican candidate is going after a constituency his opponent may have hitherto taken for granted: music fans.

In a lyrical response to the coterie of pop stars and hip-hop artists – from the Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am to the rapper Nas – who have endorsed Mr Obama, the Nashville legend John Rich is releasing a single supporting John McCain's bid for the White House.

The track Raisin' McCain is described as a "rock-infused anthem" that focuses on the five and a half years the Republican candidate spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. It made its debut at a Florida fundraising rally, with Mr McCain in the front row.

Speaking from his tour bus, Mr Rich said as a long-standing conservative, Republican voter and personal friend of Mr McCain, he realised he needed to address the musical imbalance. "As I started seeing all the media on Barack Obama, I started realising that John McCain didn't have that rally song, or fight song, something that can get everybody together to fight, so I took it upon myself to try to write the theme song for his campaign," he said.

"John McCain has been a prisoner of war and a true American hero; he's been through pains and injuries and has the scars to prove it. So I thought, I've got to write a song that reflects that and shows how this guy is a steel rod of a patriot: how he's unbendable and has always put his country before himself."

Although Rich may not boast the pure celebrity wattage of some Obama supporters, his music has a solid following in the American heartlands. He comes from Texas but lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee – which is considered one of the "second tier" of crucial swing states.

To the American record-buying public, Rich is best known as half of the multi-platinum country music duo Big & Rich, and is also a judge and mentor on the NBC talent show Nashville Star. He has sold over five million albums, boasts a string of top 20 hits and had his first No 1 last year, inspiring People magazine to name him in its annual music industry "power" list.

He was inspired to record Raisin' McCain by the candidate's daughter Meghan, who he met at a town hall event in Nashville earlier this year. The lyrics of key verses recall the abuse Mr McCain suffered in captivity, which has occasionally been mentioned during the campaign and left him unable to raise his arms above shoulder height. It also celebrates his famously patriotic refusal to accept an early release that was offered to him by the Viet Cong.

Rich emailed Meghan an electronic version of the track and she passed it on to her father, who Rich described as a "proper fan who has country music on his playlists". The Republican candidate then asked for Raisin' McCain to be performed at the rally in Florida on Friday, and may now make the song his formal campaign anthem.

"The maverick spirit of the song sells particularly well to all Americans, even Obama supporters," added Rich. "If I can make them understand about where John McCain has come from and the journey he's been on, there's no way they cannot respect him for that.

"The more you get to know John McCain, the more you respect the fact that he's both a patriot and an independent thinker, a rebel when it means staying true to what he believes in. Hopefully my song will help those people out there who are starting to pay attention to him to realise what kind of guy he is."

Although Mr McCain has previously admitted to never having used email or the internet, Rich is also releasing Raisin' McCain as a free download from his website. The nature of the music track, which he describes as a "fight song" and features a mixture of guitars and traditional country violins, may also highlight the widening gulf between the Republican and Democratic candidates.

While Mr Obama's appeal to young metropolitan voters is reflected in the endless stream of celebrities, film stars and urban musicians who have "hymned" his campaign through the medium of rap, hip-hop and pop music, Mr McCain's musical support underlines the fact that his campaign is now focusing squarely on America's traditional heartland voters.

Yesterday, the Arizona senator spoke at the Buffalo Chip Sturgis Rally in South Dakota. The event, which describes itself as a "tribute to US servicemen", features topless dancers, a "Miss Buffalo Chip" event and a "Ringin' Wet and Wild" female mud-wrestling contest. Mr McCain was joined there by the singer Kid Rock and thousands of motorcyclists.

Head to head: the lyrics

*Raisin' McCain, by John Rich

Well we're all just raisin' McCain
Everywhere across the USA
You can get on the train or get out of the way
We're all just raisin' McCain

And we're all just raisin' McCain
Everywhere across the USA
You can get on the train or get out of the way
We're all just raisin' McCain

Well he got shot down in a Vietnam town
Fighting for the red, white and blue
And they locked him up in the Hanoi Hilton
Thinking they could break him in two

He stayed strong, stayed extra long
'Til they let all the other boys out
Now we've got a real man with an American plan
We're going to put him in the big White House

Well we're all just raisin' McCain
Everywhere across the USA
You can get on the train or get out of the way
We're all just raisin' McCain

*Black President, by Nas

What's the black pres' thinkin on election night?
Is it, "How can I protect my life? Protect my wife? Protect my rights?"
Every other president was nuttin' less than white
'cept Thomas Jefferson and mixed Indian blood and Calvin Coolidge
KKK is like, "What the fuck?!", loadin they guns up
Loadin up mines too, ready to ride
'Cause I'm ridin with my crew – he dies, we die too
Yeah, but on the positive side
I think Obama provides hope, and challenges minds
of all races and colors to erase the hate
and try to LOVE one another; so many political snakes
We in need of a break, I'm thinkin I can TRUST this brotha
...but will he keep it way real?
Every innocent nigga in jail, gets out on appeal
When he wins, will he really care still?
I feel...

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