Late last month, Digital Music News was first to report that Van Morrison had blasted COVID-19 gig restrictions as “pseudo-science.” Now, the 75-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has penned three songs opposing lockdown measures.
Van Morrison and his team recently unveiled the trio of newly crafted protest tracks, which will become available “for download and streaming only from selected outlets.” The first of these works, “Born to Be Free,” is slated to debut one week from today, on September 25th. “As I Walked Out” will arrive two weeks after that, on October 9th, and the aptly titled “No More Lockdown” will round out the releases on October 23rd. Additionally, Van Morrison is set to perform the songs – the lyrics of which have made their way online – at a series of (socially distanced) London Palladium gigs next week.
In explaining his opposition to ongoing social-distancing requirements, the “Into the Mystic” singer cited their perceived impact upon live music venues and, more broadly, citizens’ personal freedoms. “I’m not telling people what to do or think,” Van Morrison said in a statement, “the government is doing a great job of that already. It’s about freedom of choice, I believe people should have the right to think for themselves.”
Building upon the effect that capacity restrictions have had (and are having) on venues, the Northern Ireland native’s announcement message also indicated “that lockdown is in danger of killing live music.” In the absence of “a date for reopening fully in 2020, many venues will shut down for good,” the formal statement proceeds. This sentiment echoes that of UK indie-venue nonprofit The Music Venue Trust (MVT), which relayed last month that “the vast majority of grassroots music venues” are unable to host shows while abiding by the government’s social-distancing guidelines.
On the artist front, a survey found at September’s start that 64 percent of UK musicians are considering exiting the music industry due to continued challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Plus, 40 percent of respondents said that they’ve booked zero shows between now and the end of the year.
In spite of these discouraging statistics and the wider challenges facing musicians and venues, many on social media are criticizing Van Morrison’s protest songs, arguing in favor of lockdown guidelines and continued restrictions. “I just smashed my collection of Van Morrison vinyl. Yea, I was a fan. Now he threatens to make the pandemic worse by issuing anti science songs,” one former fan tweeted.
Lastly, new government restrictions recently forced the Virgin Money Unity Arena, which bills itself as “the UK’s first dedicated socially distanced music venue,” to shut down and cancel an array of scheduled performances. These latest government guidelines arrived following an uptick in COVID-19 cases.