21 Feb Grace Slick Reveals Why She Licensed A Jefferson Starship Song To Chik-Fil-A
Read the original op/ed at Forbes.
Recently an ad agency asked me if they could use a song I sang on, in 1987, for a TV commercial. I didn’t immediately tell them to go f**k themselves. After all, I’ve licensed my music to advertise someone else’s product before. In 1967, Jefferson Airplane wrote a psychedelic jingle about white
rabbits jeans that’s a damn classic (Google it!). But that was for Levi Strauss & Co. This time, the agency wanted the Starship tune “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” for a very different kind of enterprise: Chick-fil-A.
Chick-fil-A pisses me off. The Georgia-based company has a well-documented history of funding organizations, through their philanthropic foundation WinShape, that are against gay marriage. In interviews, CEO Dan T. Cathy has critiqued gay-rights supporters who “have the audacity to define marriage” and said they are bringing “God’s judgment” upon the nation.
I firmly believe that men should be able to marry men, and women women. I am passionately against anyone who would try to suppress this basic human right. So my first thought when “Check”-fil-A came to me was, “F**k no!”
So that was my voice you heard on the Chick-fil-A commercial during the Grammy Awards telecast. I am donating every dime that I make from that ad to Lambda Legal, the largest national legal organization working to advance the civil rights of LGBTQ people, and everyone living with HIV. Admittedly it’s not the millions that WinShape has given to organizations that define marriage as heterosexual. But instead of them replacing my song with someone else’s and losing this opportunity to strike back at anti-LGBTQ forces, I decided to spend the cash in direct opposition to “Check”-fil-A’s causes – and to make a public example of them, too. We’re going to take some of their money, and pay it back.
See, I come from a time when artists didn’t just sell their soul to the highest bidder, when musicians took a stand, when the message of songs was “feed your head,” not “feed your wallet.” We need that kind of artistic integrity today, more than ever. We won’t produce quality art if we don’t keep ourselves open to all people and possibilities, if we don’t put our money where our mouths are. As Jennifer Lopez quoted Toni Morrison during the Grammys telecast, “‘This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self pity, no need for silence, and no room for fear. We do language. That is how civilizations heal.’”
You might think I’m writing this just to cover my ass for allowing a company whose practices many find morally objectionable to use Starship’s music. Well, I haven’t covered my ass since the day I was born (except, maybe, in a pair of white Levi’s). From the moment I agreed to license the song, I knew I wanted to set an example for other artists. I wanted to tell them, “Your art will survive and thrive. Do not let it be used by companies who support intolerance. Don’t be afraid to take a stand. You’re an artist; that’s what we do.”
I hope more musicians will think about the companies that they let use their songs; we can use our gifts to help stop the forces of bigotry.
Nothing’s gonna stop us now.