How The Pandemic Affected The Lives Of Rock Legends
via Rolling Stone/YouTube
No one saw it coming – that we’d spend most of 2020 stuck in our own homes, unable to go where we want when we want, and have to socially distance ourselves from friends and even loved ones. Because events like concerts and festivals were postponed or canceled altogether, the music industry is one of those that suffered substantial financial losses. Rockstars who were supposed to embark on massive tours were left with no choice but to change their touring plans.
Thanks to the internet, they can still communicate with their fans and even hold online concerts. But the whole experience is just not the same. And because they have too much time on their hands, most went back to music by writing and recording new songs. Let’s take a look at five rock legends and the effect of the current global health crisis on them and their career.
Throughout the pandemic, Neil Young has been active online with his Fireside Sessions – a series of home concerts filmed and directed by his wife, actress Daryl Hannah. He brought out rarities and deep cuts in his performances. The recordings were released as “The Times” EP on September 18. He also kept himself busy by digging into his vault and working on side projects. His much-talked about LP “Homegrown” finally saw the light of day on June 19, 2020. He dropped the Neil Young Archives Volume II: 1972–1976 box set on November 20, 2020 which featured 131 tracks, 63 of which were previously unreleased. And then there’s the live album “Return to Greendale” which was released on November 6, 2020.
He’s not done releasing archive materials because he recently shared his plans to resurrect the lost and unheard 1982 LP “Johnny’s Island”. And early this year, he sold 50% of the publishing rights to over a thousand of his songs to Hipgnosis Songs Fund for $150 million. All in all, we’ll say he’s not doing so bad during this tough time.
Part of Bob Dylan’s charm has always been his unpredictability and eccentricity. And just after lockdown measures were implemented in March last year, he surprised everyone by releasing his first original song in eight years – the 17-minute epic “Murder Most Foul”, a dark ballad which touched on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Throughout 2020, he dropped the singles “I Contain Multitudes” and “False Prophet” which appeared on his 39th studio album “Rough and Rowdy Ways”.
Speaking about the pandemic, he told The New York Times: “Maybe we are on the eve of destruction. There are numerous ways you can think about this virus. I think you just have to let it run its course.” And while most musicians became productive by writing new music, that wasn’t the case with Dylan who primarily wrote while he’s on the road and in hotel rooms. He said, “A hotel room is the closest I get to a private studio.”
And just like Neil Young, Dylan sold the publishing rights to his entire catalog of 600 songs to Universal Music last December. It was reportedly worth $300m.
Because of the pandemic, stores closed, companies went bankrupt, and several people lost their jobs. As for David Crosby, it was supposed to be a busy 2020 for him since he had three separate tours lined up. But none of them pushed through and in an interview with Rolling Stone last year, he admitted: “I don’t want to be sitting at home, man. I’m 78. I only got a few years left. You know that. I don’t want to spend them sitting on my butt. I got a lot of music in me still and I’m trying really hard to make music every minute I fucking can, because it’s the one place I can contribute. [But] I’m sitting here, watching the last bits of cash that I’ve got dribble out, and I don’t have any savings. So it’s not looking good.”
He struggled financially and even revealed the possibility of losing his home. But he has a plan just in case it gets worse, “Well, first you sell the guitars. That’s the only stuff I got. I got some D-45 Martins from 1969. I’m going to do that. I have to do it anyway, because my hands are gone. I got tendinitis in both hands, [my] trigger fingers, and it’s not going to get better. So in the long run, they’re going to have to get sold. Then once the guitars are gone, we lose the house. I’ve lived here for 21, 22 years. It’s not big and impressive. It’s just a small, really sweet, adobe house, tile roof, in the middle of cattle country. It’s really wide open here. It’s a wonderful place to live. I want to die here. I don’t want to have to leave.”
He summed it up best when he said, “For musicians, it’s a fucking nightmare.” And in December, he announced on Twitter that he’s preparing to sell his catalog. He wrote, “I can’t work… and streaming stole my record money… I have a family and a mortgage and I have to take care of them so it’s my only option ..I’m sure the others feel the same.” This tweet was in response to the news of Dylan selling the rights to his songs.
Of course for Paul McCartney who remains as one of the richest rockstars of all time, money isn’t and has never been an issue. He had tour dates lined up too but when they were canceled, he simply stayed at home. Aside from giving interviews and at-home performances for virtual charity events, he released “McCartney III” which he recorded alone during lockdown at his home studio in Sussex.
When he was interviewed by Variety, he was asked how lockdown was for him. He replied, “I was very lucky, actually. At the beginning of the year we were on holiday and then the lockdown started just after we got back and so I flew to England and spent the time with my daughter, Mary, and her kids on the farm. So, suddenly, we were all locked down there. So it’s not been bad at all.”
He added, “I feel dreadfully sorry for all those who are less fortunate and obviously all those who have lost loved ones, but I’ve been lucky. I’ve been able to write and get into music, starting songs, finishing songs. I’ve had a few little things to write and it’s given me the time to finish some songs that I hadn’t found the time to get around to, you know? I’ve been recording using lots of hand wipes and disinfectant and social distancing, which was good because I don’t like not working.”
It was John Fogerty’s wife Julie who suggested performing Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” and share it on social media. What made it extra special was the fact that he’s joined by his kids – Shane (29), Tyler (28), and Kelsy (19) – further proving that talent indeed runs in their family. It was so well received that they followed it up with more performances and in the end, they decided to release the album “Fogerty’s Factory” which referenced CCR’s “Cosmo’s Factory”. It featured their heartwarming take on Fogerty classic tunes.
Fogerty told USA Today, “Here we are a family band and it had really never occurred to me. One day we looked at each other and said, ‘We’re the Partridge Family!’ And we meant that in all the good ways that could be.”
And in early January, he released a brand new song titled “Weeping in the Promised Land” – his first original track since 2018. He addressed the tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.