Arts

Journey Guitarist to Bandmate Who Played for Trump: No Political Gigs

When musicians complain about political uses of their songs without permission, the cease-and-desist letters are usually sent to politicians. In the case of Journey, it is one band member against another — over a wish for the group to remain apolitical.

Last week, a lawyer for Neal Schon, Journey’s founding guitarist, wrote to Jonathan Cain, the group’s keyboardist, demanding that he stop appearing at events for former President Donald J. Trump “as Journey,” and performing Journey songs at those functions, saying that Mr. Cain’s appearances have caused “irreparable harm to the Journey brand.”

“Although Mr. Cain is free to express his personal beliefs and associations, when he does that on behalf of Journey or as a representative of the band, such conduct is extremely deleterious to the Journey brand as it polarizes the band’s fans and outreach,” says the letter, a copy of which was provided to The New York Times by representatives of Mr. Schon.

“Journey is not, and should not be, political,” the letter adds, and notes the risk of a reduced earning potential to its next tour, set to begin in January.

The letter points to a performance by Mr. Cain last month of “Don’t Stop Believin’,” the band’s enduring power ballad, at the America First Experience Gala at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s estate in Florida. An online video of the event shows Mr. Cain seated at a keyboard, leading a singalong with conservative political figures like Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Kimberly Guilfoyle and Kari Lake onstage beside him. In the crowd, Mr. Trump is visible along with Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump Jr. and others.

Mr. Cain has long been connected to Mr. Trump’s inner circle. His wife, Paula White, was Mr. Trump’s spiritual adviser during his administration, and she delivered the invocation at Mr. Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

The existence of the letter was first reported by Variety. A representative of Mr. Cain did not respond to a request for comment.

“Don’t Stop Believin’,” from Journey’s 1981 album “Escape,” was a Top 10 hit when it came out. It has also had an enormously successful afterlife, appearing in the final episode of “The Sopranos” in 2007, as well as in the Broadway musical “Rock of Ages.” Written by Mr. Cain, Mr. Schon and Steve Perry, the group’s former vocalist, the song has racked up more than 1.4 billion streams on Spotify alone.

Musicians’ complaints about the political use of their songs also usually involves accusations of copyright infringement, but given that Mr. Cain is a co-author, that may be moot, and the letter from Mr. Schon makes no mention of copyright.

Instead, its focus is Journey’s desire to remain apolitical. The letter links to a radio interview with the band, in which the group was asked whether it would have accepted an invitation to perform at Mr. Trump’s inauguration. Mr. Cain answered: “We’re not political. We don’t get into politics. We try to stay in our lane.” Mr. Schon added: “The best place to stay is neutral, in the center.”

Intra-band tensions have long been a part of the story of Journey, which emerged as a progressive rock group in the 1970s — Mr. Schon began his career as a teenager in Santana — and found arena-filling success with dramatic pop-rock in the ’80s.

Lately, Mr. Schon and Mr. Cain, who joined the group for “Escape,” have battled over various financial issues, and another letter sent to Mr. Cain this month — by a different lawyer for Mr. Schon, at a different firm — complained that Ms. White was inappropriately interfering in the band’s business affairs.

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