Rock icon Van Morrison will release three songs that address the COVID-19 lockdown in the U.K., “Born To Be Free,” “As I Walked Out” and “No More Lockdown.” “I’m not telling people what to do or think, the government is doing a great job of that already,” the 75-year-old singer said in a statement announcing the protest anthems that will be available for download and streaming only, respectively, on Sept. 25, Oct. 9 and Oct. 23. “It’s about freedom of choice, I believe people should have the right to think for themselves.”
Morrison has been campaigning for a re-opening of performance venues at full capacity, with the statement noting that he “feels strongly” that the ongoing lockdown presents an existential threat to the future of live music venues. The U.K. has allowed some socially distanced gigs since Aug. 1, but, as in the United States, there have been few other shows since the pandemic caused a worldwide lockdown in March.
“No more lockdown/ No more government overreach/ No more fascist bullies/ Disturbing our peace/ No more taking of our freedom/ And our God given rights/ Pretending it’s for our safety/ When it’s really to enslave,” he sings in the lyrics to “No More Lockdown.” The message on “As I Walked Out” has a similar cast, with the opening lines, “As I walked out/All the streets were empty/ The government said Everyone should stay home/ And they spread fear and loathing/ And no hope for the future/ Not many did question/ This very strange move.”
Both songs attack government figures, celebrities and, on “Lockdown,” the “Imperial College scientists making up crooked facts,” with the chorus of “Born To Be Free” stating, “The new normal, is not normal/ It’s no kind of normal at all/ Everyone seems to have amnesia/ Just trying to remember the Berlin Wall.”
The lyrics to “As I Walked Out” also note that “the government website from the 21st March 2020/ It said COVID-19 was no longer high risk,” though The Guardian noted that the virus is still considered highly infectious, with officials confirming a 75% increase in positive weekly cases across England last week.
Morrison has played three socially distanced gigs this month and plans to debut the new songs at a series of shows at the London Palladium later in September after he previews them on the #SaveLiveMusic social media platforms. Morrison isn’t the only British rock star chafing against the coronavirus lockdown. Former Oasis guitarist/songwriter Noel Gallagher told podcast host Matt Morgan last week that he would not wear a mask while out shopping or riding public transit, saying, “There’s too many f–king liberties being taken away from us now.”
Stone Roses singer Ian Brown has also weighed in on masks, tweeted on Sept. 5, “No lockdown no tests no tracks no masks no vax,” and then reacting to those who dubbed him a “conspiracy theorist” last week by adding, “a term invented by the lame stream media to discredit those who can smell and see through the government/media lies and propaganda #researchanddestroy.” Brown joined the fray on Friday (Sept. 18) by dropping his own snarling anti-lockdown song, “Little Seed Big Tree,” which features the lyrics, “A sonic lockdown in your home town/ A sonic lockdown, can you feel me now?/ A sonic lockdown, state shakedown, a mass breakdown/ Put your muzzle on, get back in your basket / Get behind your doors cos living here is drastic.”
By U.K. mandate since June, citizens are required to wear a face mask on public transportation, as well as in shops, hotels and concert halls; a number of studies have revealed that wearing a mask in public — in addition to physical distancing and frequent hand-washing — is effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19. To date there are more than 30 million COVID-19 cases around the world, with the death toll nearing one million, including 201,000 deaths in the U.S. and nearly 42,000 in the U.K.
Listen to Brown’s “Little Seed Big Tree” below.