In the red corner are Van Morrison and Eric Clapton, railing about a loss of freedom and the lockdown that has for nine months shut down live music, and much of life in general.
In the blue corner are Iggy Pop, who’s telling the COVID-19 story in the aptly titled “Dirty Little Virus,” and Linda Gail Lewis, who’s singing the “Oh Pandemic” blues.
And the winners in this battle of septuagenarians are, hands down, Iggy and Lewis — musically and lyrically.
Morrison has over the last couple of months cranked out a handful of anti-lockdown songs that have been roundly criticized for defiant messages, to wit, this verse from the cleverly titled “No More Lockdown.”
“No more lockdown/ No more government overreach/ No more fascist police/ Disturbing our peace/ No more taking our freedom/ And our God-given rights/ Pretending it’s for our safety/ When it’s really to enslave.”
Really Van, enslave? That extremist take continues on “Stand and Deliver,” the song Morrison just released with Clapton that has, to be kind, been torched for its anti-public health measures politics and, perhaps just as important, it’s musical dullness.
A lazy blues vamp that lets Clapton cut loose with the solo you’d expect to here, “Stand and Deliver” is cliched and boring — the worst that can be said about any song.
As for “Dirty Little Secret,” it’s some classic Iggy with an ear-grabbing chorus, a driving raw blend of synthesizers and horns and his growling vocals. And Mr. Pop doesn’t have to get too political to make his point.
“I was moved to write a direct lyric, not something too emotional or deep, more like journalism, who, what, when, where,” Pop says in a video about the song.
The virus, he said, “was a stopper for me. It’s been the big thing happening in my life and everybody else’s, I reckon, for almost a year now. If there was still a man of the year, it would be the virus.”
So Iggy sings: “COVID-19 is on the scene/ The boys and girls can’t stop their world/ Grandfather’s dead/ Got Trump instead” and, on the chorus “Dirty little virus/ Sleeping inside us/ Gone are the paydays/ Gone are the playdates.”
Lewis, Jerry Lee’s rock ’n’ rolling younger sister, goes with an old-school bluesy swing on “Oh Pandemic,” a straight-up personal take on the impact of the virus as she sings of shedding tears, the disruption of life that took away her gigs and her income, while holding out hope for the future.
“Oh pandemic, you took my life away/ I can feel my sanity/ Is slipping day by day,” she sings. “Oh Pandemic, you took so much from me/ I won’t let you drown me in your dark and endless sea.”
Like Morrison’s songs and “Dirty Little Virus,” “Oh Pandemic” is available on streaming services. But check it out on YouTube. The video uses photographs from the 1918 flu pandemic — with people wearing masks, caring for the hospitalized, etc. — that connect it musically and visually to today.
Save Our Stages included in relief package
A sigh of relief echoed through the nation’s music venues and movie theaters Monday night when Congress authorized $15 billion in grants to keep independent entertainment businesses alive while they are shut down by the coronavirus pandemic.
For tucked inside the massive piece of $900 billion stimulus package, the $15 billion is essentially the Save Our Stages Act, proposed by the National Independent Venue Association, with additional funds added for movie theaters and other cultural institutions.
More than 3,000 clubs, theaters, booking agents and promoters — including Lincoln venues from the Zoo Bar to the Lied Center for Performing Arts — make up NIVA, which has been lobbying Congress for months to get relief specifically targeted to the industry that has been hit hardest by the pandemic and will be the last to return.
According to Sen. Amy Klobucher, D-Minn., who co-sponsored the Save Our Stages Act along with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas), the lobbying effort worked.
“It was the grassroots efforts of musicians and theaters and fans from all across the country,” Klobuchar told The New York Times on Monday. “And it was the fact that the coalition stuck together. They didn’t infight.”
The bill allows independent entertainment businesses, like music venues and movie theaters along with other cultural entities, to apply for Small Business Administration grants to cover six months of rent, utilities and maintenance and payments to employees.
The grants are available to applicants who have lost at least 25% of their revenue, with those who have lost more than 90% able to apply first.
NIVA had estimated that 70% of the nation’s music venues could go under if relief wasn’t received.
Now the grants, which are limited to a maximum of $10 million for any application, should allow the venues to make it to late spring/early summer when it appears live music will start to return through the fall and when hopefully theaters will be able to operate at full capacity.
Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @KentWolgamott