Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Interview: Betty Buckley Opens Up About Her Fight to Reclaim 'Memory' from Donald Trump

The Trump campaign has been using the CATS song at rallies across the country.

Interview: Betty Buckley Opens Up About Her Fight to Reclaim 'Memory' from Donald Trump

One of Broadway's most iconic anthems has been turned into a Trump campaign rallying cry, and Betty Buckley isn't having it. As BroadwayWorld previously reported, despite being served a cease-and-desist order this summer from composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Trump campaign has continued to use Buckley's rendition of "Memory," at rallies across the country.

Trump has used the song regularly since 2017, and just last week, following reports of yet another occurrence at an event in Florida, Buckley penned an open letter to campaign to make her feelings known.

This is far from the first time this has happened. In 2016, the composing team behind Les Miserables and the show's producer Cameron Macintosh objected to the campaign's use of the song "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from the musical. Many other musicians have either filed legal action, or threatened to, over the use of their songs at Trump's rallies, since he first announced his campaign for president.

Below, BroadwayWorld checks in with Buckley to find out why she decided to speak up, how she's preparing for the election from her home state of Texas, and so much more.

Firstly, what has the response been from other people out there who read this letter?

Yeah, so many like-minded people have reposted it on social media on Facebook and on Instagram and on Twitter, which is been very gratifying. A few people have attacked me, but I you know, I blocked those people really fast, so there are fewer and fewer of them. It's just been it's been very gratifying that people were so happy to read the letter.

The thing is... the reason I wrote it is because every time someone posts a video of them using my version of "Memory" at their rallies- the last one being this misguided guy who was dancing around to it... I can't remember his name, but he was clearly nuts. People are constantly sending me those videos and saying, "Betty, you guys have to you have to do something about this!"

So months ago, a friend of mine in PR, Rick Miramontez, who represents Andrew Lloyd Webber, helped me get in touch. There was more and more pressure on Andrew to do something and he finally stepped up and wrote a cease-and-desist.

This was in the summer, right?

Yes, early summer. And still there's no regard for that. So it being used at this most recent rally prompted me to write the letter.

I can't believe it's still happening despite legal action...

Trump and company are very litigious people and they just don't care. I wish BMI & ASCAP would take a stand against something like this, because I would doubt very much they'd even paid what they're supposed to pay to use any of this music at their rallies. But you know, I don't have the facts. There's just no respect or empathy or
compassion for any other human beings about anything. He's the most
self-centered, self-serving, contemptible person on the planet.

I know that he started using this song years ago. When I first heard about it I thought it was a joke... Did the choice of this song specifically surprise you as much as it did me?

Yes! I don't understand its application to the campaign. Unless it's that on some level
somebody thought, "Oh, it will soothe the madness." Or maybe it's its anthem-like quality. There's a nostalgia to "Memory." But I don't even know if they if they think that deeply about it. Probably somebody just picks from a playlist and puts it up there. But yeah, I was just mystified.

Have you voted yet?

Oh yeah, we voted this past week and it was a real joy. There were no lines! There were two places I could go to vote- there's a little tiny, tiny country town near my ranch and usually we vote there, but I was very nervous to vote there. I kept telling my assistant
Cathy that we should take my guard dog with us, because I was really afraid...

Earlier in the summer some teenagers got together and wanted to do a Black Lives Matter protest and for some reason the word got out and the town square was filled with white supremacists with automatic guns, knives, and so much venom
and hatred. It's been very, very disturbing. I just hope we win. I hope we win with
such a landslide that there's no question.

I'm New York City and I'm overwhelmed. I can't imagine being so surrounded by that culture...

I'm trying to take it one day at a time. In this this area where I live there's lots of Trump/Pence signs. But in Fort Worth, which is the closest city, there have been a lot a lot of Biden/Harris signs, so that makes you feel a kind of relief. Through all of this I have lost childhood friends that I've unfriended on Facebook. I don't want anything to do with them anymore. I had no idea they were racist and white supremacists. That's that's been deeply, deeply sad that they don't care.

And this Amy Coney Barrett news... I'm so disheartened about that. Last week I was feeling really hopeful... and I'm still feeling hopeful. I'm choosing to feel hopeful, but it's really crazy. I'm just praying constantly. I'm not even going to consider not winning. We will win. But I'm taking it a day at a time.

Have you been working on any other projects in the meantime?

Yes! A group of my artist friends and I have been working for the past several months on creating a video, as our contribution to a remembrance of community that was once committed to love, decency and respect for our fellows.

I grew up as a military brat on Air Force bases around the World. I started school in a two room Quonset hut in Sidi Slimane Air Base, Morocco, North Africa. My Father Ernest Buckley was a Major turned Lt. Colonel in the United States Air Force. Kids of every race and color were my classmates and our neighbors. When I was in the fifth grade my father retired from the military, and we settled in Fort Worth, Texas.

Every Sunday morning we went to the Methodist Church. I sang in the Youth Choir on Sunday evenings. "For The Beauty Of The Earth" is one of my favorite, most beloved hymns. Through the years I have sung it in concerts, recorded live-at my first concert in NYC, a benefit concert of the Homeless at The St. Bart's Church and, later, for two nights of concerts with my band of wonderful musicians at Alice Tully Hall in NYC, two weeks following 9/11. It was one of the most profound experiences I have ever been a part of, a community sharing the enormity of our grief through music.

I learned "Jesus Loves The Little Children" when I was very young at Vacation Bible School. For me, these two traditional hymns express the heart of Christianity. Over these past months they have played on a loop in my mind and heart. I am so fortunate that these are the lessons of Christianity that I was taught. I took Bible Study classes that focused only on the words of the man Jesus Christ. They were such simple teachings, so pure. Beautifully, and repeatedly, he said "Love your neighbor as yourself." He didn't say, just the "white people".

It is my belief that there are true Christians out there, who are as grieved as I am, bewildered by the propaganda to which they have been subjugated. They have been told to cast their votes for criminals. It is my hope that via the remembrance of the simple truths contained in the beautiful music and lyrics of these two traditional hymns some persons will feel a call to a soul remembrance of Truth.

Over 200 people have participated in creating this project. If this music and the images in this video touch one person, ten or one hundred, it will have been worth it. There are so many decent human beings ready to help, ready to lead us back to peace, love and respect for one another. We must stand strong in the Truth of Love to combat cruelty, lack of decency and immorality.

(Producer - Betty Lynn Buckley, Director/Editor - Matt Amato, Music Arranger - Christian Jacob, Audio Recording + Mixing Engineer - Jason Wormer, Children's Vocals + Videos Engineer - Patrick Copeland, Recording Engineers - Tanner Landry + Michael Seifert, Black + White Photographs - Harry Benson, Photo Journalist - Edgard Garrido/Reuters, Lead Vocal - Betty Lynn Buckley, Piano + Keyboards - Christian Jacob, Percussion + Drums - Jamey Haddad, Bass - Trey Henry, Guitar - Oz Noy)

Betty Buckley is a legendary, multi-award winning actress/singer whose career spans theater, film, television and concert halls around the world. She is a 2012 Theatre Hall of Fame inductee and the 2017 recipient of the Julie Harris Awards from The Actor's Fund for Artistic Achievement.

She recently completed headlining the National Tour of the new Broadway Production of HELLO, DOLLY! produced by Scott Rudin from Fall of 2018 through August 2019. She won a Tony Award for her performance as Grizabella, the Glamour Cat, in Andrew Lloyd Webber's CATS and received her second Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a musical for her performance as Hesione in TRIUMPH OF LOVE. She received an Olivier Award nomination for her critically acclaimed interpretation of Norma Desmond in the London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's SUNSET BOULEVARD, which she repeated to more rave reviews on Broadway.

Her other Broadway credits include 1776, PIPPIN, SONG AND DANCE, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD and CARRIE. Off-Broadway credits include the world premiere of Horton Foote's THE OLD FRIENDS for which she received a Drama Desk Nomination in 2014, WHITE'S LIES, Lincoln Center's ELEGIES, the original NYSF production of EDWIN DROOD, THE EROS TRILOGY, JUNO'S SWANS and GETTING MY ACT TOGETHER AND TAKING IT ON, THE ROAD. Regional credits include THE PERFECTIONIST, GYPSY, THE THREEPENNY OPERA, CAMINO REAL, BUFFALO GAL, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, THE OLD FRIENDS at Houston's Alley Theatre and GREY GARDENS at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, NY and The Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles in 2016 for which she received an Ovation Award Nomination.

For over forty years Ms. Buckley has been a teacher of scene study and song interpretation, giving workshops in Manhattan and various universities and performing Arts Conservatories around the country. She has been a faculty member in the theatre department of the University of Texas at Arlington and teaches regularly at the T. Schreiber Studio in New York City, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX and in Los Angeles, Denver and Oklahoma. Find out more about her current master classes.

Photo Credit: John Boal

Related Articles

From This Author - Nicole Rosky