- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2000

A campaign theme song used by Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. George W. Bush appears on its way to becoming a surprise hit for country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, a lifelong Democrat.

The song, "We The People," is at No. 71 on Billboard magazine's Hot Country singles and tracks chart, even though it has yet to be released as a single.

It was offered this summer to both the Bush and Gore campaigns by Monument Records, a division of Sony Music Nashville. The GOP jumped on the country rock tune first, and it debuted on national television in August after Mr. Bush's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

Since then, the soaring, guitar-heavy anthem to working people has been used to cap off Bush-Cheney rallies around the nation, with radio stations now picking up on its popularity and including it in their playlists. In addition to Mr. Cyrus, the song features five other country artists including superstar traditionalist Waylon Jennings, Jon Anderson and new talent Montgomery Gentry.

Written by a trio of songwriters including Monty Powell, who penned two of the singer's previous hits, "We the People" appears on Mr. Cyrus's latest album, "Southern Rain," which was released in music stores Oct. 17.

It is the second song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for Mr. Cyrus, a Flatwoods, Ky., native best known for his catchy 1995 hit, "Achy Breaky Heart." The single, "You Won't Be Lonely Now," holds the No. 21 slot on the New York-based music magazine's list of most-played country songs for the week of Nov. 4.

Mr. Cyrus, 39, has long supported the Democratic Party, singing the national anthem at the 1996 convention and performing at President Clinton's 1997 inaugural. He, along with several other country artists, also played at a Nashville fund-raiser for Mr. Gore last month.

A video for the song was released two weeks ago, but neither Mr. Cyrus nor any of the other artists that sing on the track appear in it, a spokesman for Monument Records said yesterday. Rather, it is a montage of working people bakers, farmers, dentists, even members of the Blue Angels flying squadron who are filmed singing the song.

The video, the spokesman said, was released "as a pro-vote video, just to encourage people to get out and make a difference," and has no partisan leanings.

In an interview with the Web site RollingStone.com, Mr. Cyrus said he did not record the song with politics in mind, but rather considered it fitting for country music's blue-collar demographic.

"I just wanted it to be a working people's anthem," Mr. Cyrus said of the song's theme. "It's to encourage people to go out and exercise their right to vote.

"That's what makes this the greatest country in the world to live in; we have the power to go out and elect our officials," he added. "And if we don't vote, we aren't using our power."

Bush media strategist Mark McKinnon said they hope they have been part of the song's commercial success. He had no problem with the fact that Mr. Cyrus was a Gore supporter.

"We felt it was the perfect song for the governor," Mr. McKinnon said. "We pushed the song, and the song has pushed us."

At least one Cyrus relative, however, is feeling achy over the breakaway popularity of the song in the presidential campaign. The country star's father, a former state legislator in Kentucky, was not amused that the Bush camp had picked it.

"That's a Democrat song that's a working people's song," Ron Cyrus told the Associated Press.

• David Boyer, traveling with the Bush campaign, contributed to this report.

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