10 Coronavirus songs to help make sense of an uneasy year
So how’s your 2020 going so far? Kind of shitty, huh?
Luckily, there’s been a lot of music accumulating, even recently, to help us cope. Our fave tunes are a great distraction or an affirmation or they become dozens of other ways to make us a little more secure. But a special song that sums up our fearful, hermit-like existence really hits home. There’s plenty of songs from the past that reach out through the years and decades and make more sense now especially- the Animals’ “We Gotta Get out of This Place,” Faron Young’s “Hello Walls” (penned by Willie), Jimmy Clliff’s “Trapped” (later covered by Springsteen), Martha and the Vandellas’ “Nowhere To Run” and more recently, Kasey Musgraves’ “Rainbow.” Note to punk fans: though it’s actually about the beer, Minutemen’s “Corona” (from 1984) has an incredibly salient first verse to it.
But what about the songs from right now that hit the nail on the head? The Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell had a cute one-man band tune (“Lockdown“) and Jagger and his ol’ ol’ pals gave us “Living In A Ghost Town,” which they swear they recorded last year before everything upended and ain’t no anthem or real comeback for them.
And then there are actually a bunch of tunes that really do speak to the moment and you can actually listen through without wasting your lock-down time and help you to stay safe and sane. Some of the songs don’t directly address the virus or our hideouts, but they do sum up our desperate situation well. And there are MAGA anthems out there about conspiracy theories, injecting bleach, reopening states etc. but you came to the wrong place here for that. And surely we’ll have more COVID tunes coming out which will hit us even more directly with tales of death and unemployment but hopefully this batch will be a good balm for us for now.
Ry Cooder “Congregatin'”
This guitarists’ guitarist with an amazing pedigree ain’t afraid of topical songs (see 2012’s wonderful Election Special) so maybe it’s not surprising that he came up with this Facebook video warning of the evils of large gatherings. A nice bluesy tune that tips its hat to wise words of caution from California governor Gavin Newsom and L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti while slapping down Trump and Kushner for their bone-headed non-response. RC even sneaks in a line from Joe Turner’s R&B classic “Shake Rattle and Roll” that’s great advice now: “get outta that bed/wash your face and hands.” And how can he tell that you’ve been congregatin’? That smell on you…
DJ iMarkkeyz/Cardi B “Coronavirus”
A grand NYC inter-borough collaboration. The Bronx diva/goddess went off on Instagram on March 10th to admit that she’s scared and “that shit is getting’ real!” Days later, Brooklyn DJ iMarkkeyz had a tweet with a remix of Cardi’s inspired rant into a one-minute jam. Only one day later, he’s up on YouTube with a two minute version. All we hear is Cardi naming the disease, reminding us it’s real (this shit, y’all) and occasionally a pair of coughs and a pause to ‘hold up’ otherwise. But the crazy music and her howl say it all about this day and age. Result: an instant hit single with donations going to COVID-effected families. It’s the most poignant single so far this year.
AUDIO: DJ iMarkkeyz/Cardi B “Coronavirus”
Brent McCollough “Stayin’ Inside”
Well damn, couldn’t we use a laugh now, especially if it’s a good PSA too? The Brothers Gibb would approve and Weird Al must be kicking himself that he didn’t come up with it first. This edges out Chris Mann’s “My Corona” as the best 2020 parody so far. For original corona novelty tunes, I’d take Adam Sandler over Rusty Cage.
VIDEO: Brian McCullough “Stayin’ Inside”
The Mountain Goats “Until Olympius Returns”
18 years after MG principal John Darnielle put away his boombox to do more elaborate studio recordings, he digs it out again, inspired by pagan mythology and the pandemic to create Songs for Pierre Chuvin. The 2nd song starts as an anti-authoritarian rant but soon takes us front and center:
Vouch for every member of the team
This is just a momentary ripple in the stream
Join in the rebuilding
Sing loudly at your labor
Make friends with the new guys
Be nice to your neighbor”
But then it’s back to mistrust of Big Brother (certainly warranted considering what the Exec branch is like now):
“Profess keen interest in the welfare of the state
Taste everything they feed you
Say it tastes real great”
Despite his oceans of bile, JD ends by sending out the music to everyone on a hopeful note about the release:
“I dedicate this tape to everybody who’s waited a long time for the wheels to sound their joyous grind: may they grind us into a safe future where we gather once again in rooms to sing songs about pagan priests & hidden shelters, and where we see each other face to face.”
Randy Newman “Stay Away”
Speaking of great cranks, this drawling singer-songwriting legend once told the Academy “I don’t want your pity” upon winning his first Oscar. Like Darnielle though, the age of COVID (and maybe all the Toy Story movies) has softened the ol’ misanthrope a bit, or so it seems at first. After getting asked to do a PSA by an L.A. radio station, he gives us a song instead, with the video recorded by his wife via her phone, knowing full well that a love song from him won’t be too gooey. He credits his own ‘scientific background’ and mentions that he’s doing his part because of ‘some disease that’s going around.’ “Venus in sweatpants/that’s who you are/And when this mess is over/I’ll buy you a car,” he starts out, dreaming of leaving behind ‘all our stupid friends.’ “Stay away from me!” he insists, mentioning how lucky he is to be with his loved one around the clock, pacing through a New Orleans boogie. And while advising to calm the kids, he also advises “don’t let ’em touch your face,” tying in social distancing with an anti-social impulse. Need more detail? Newman explained his motivation for CBS.
VIDEO: Randy Newman “Stay Away”
Tundra ft. B.U.H, Gaffa Tape Sandy, Kulk, and Seymour Quigley “They Want Us To Die”
This collaboration between these lefty Brit bands is a punk howl originally meant as an anti-Tory screed with a muttered chanted chorus, raving guitars and voices shouting past each other. But its anger easily translates to their govt’s (and other’s) ineptitude. selfishness and stupidity that’s left thousands dead and hospitalized:
“A discordant nation with no direction
Led by donkeys, led by mules
Disunity in our Kingdom
Where the media has you fooled
They’ll dismantle our health system
Sell it slowly piece by piece”
But even then, they have enough heart to show compassion, even for their enemies, adding this note on the single’s download page:
“It goes without saying that everyone involved with this project (recorded several weeks ago) wishes a quick and complete recovery to all those suffering from COVID 19, regardless of how their actions or inactions may have made the situation worse. The entire motivation of this release is that we all deserve to live world where everyone’s health and wellbeing is valued.”
A lesson there for us all, eh?
Tyga x Curtis Roach “Bored In The House”
Once upon a time, an up-and-coming Detroit rapper made a TikTok video about being a home-body, conceived pre-lockdown. It quickly became a meme with thousands of users doing their own versions. One particular fan was a multi-hit Compton wonder who wanted to join in too, reaching out to Roach (who didn’t believe it was actually Tyga hitting him up) to redo the song. As such, “Bored” nicely sums up a predicament that we’re all too familiar with but not comfortable talking about, which is why it’s so liberating to hear someone ready to admit it publicly. End result: Roach became an instant star. but admits that he’s still cool with staying inside, even post-COVID. Even if he stays at home, here’s hoping he has a few more anthems in him.
VIDEO: Tyga x Curtis Roach “Bored In The House”
John Paul White and Rosanne Cash “We’re All In This Together Now”
After a triumphant tour with Mr. Cooder (see above) where she finally seemed to come to terms with her dad’s catalog, Rosie had a problem. She came up with a moving set of lyrics but couldn’t find the right place for it on her own records. Sharing it last year with her old friend, singer/songwriter, Civil Wars member Mr. White, the song soon had a melody, but it still couldn’t find a home. As Rosie explains, “it sat there waiting for just the right moment. Which is now.” White and Cash beautifully intertwine and alternate their voices in what becomes a big aural hug. And thus, the song finally found a home with us all. If that wasn’t enough, the tune also does its bit by having its proceeds go to Music Health Alliance (which you can can also support here).
VIDEO: John Paul White × Roseanne Cash “We’re All In This Together”
Young Dolph “Sunshine”
This Memphis rapper with a West Coast flow came off a beef with Yo Gotti a few years ago and a hit record with Key Glock last year. Though you wish that the title of the song was a nod to Bill Withers and that his Trump name-check was a lot harsher, he sees hibernation as a chance to be a better family man. And it’s hard to deny a chorus that goes like this: “God, please watch over the nurses and doctors on the frontlines/I can’t wait ’til the clouds gone and we get sunshine.” We should all rally around that.
AUDIO: Young Dolph “Sunshine”
Mike Zito “Quarantine Blues”
Though this Missouri guitarist/label head is always like-able/enjoyable with his bits of downhome grit, he’s never quite broken out of his genre, which may be because he’s so downhome, His 2014 version of Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” was uncharacteristic and much too lounge but he more than redeemed himself with a multi-collaboration Chuck Berry tribute record from last year. Here, his roaring slide meets up with a booming drum that sounds like it’s out of a Tom Waits session and threatens to drown out his static-filled voice. He yells out “I can’t touch my woman/I can’t sleep in my bed/If I can’t get some lovin’ soon/I’ll be better off dead” and later complains that he’ll go cuckoo if he doesn’t see the sun. Not quite Willie Dixon stuff but its fatalism is undeniable and relatable. Not surprisingly, he has the experience too, locking himself away for two weeks for health/safety reasons after a European tour.
RUNNERS-UP, also worth a listen:
- Gmac Cash “Coronavirus“
- More Fatter “I Don’t Want To Wash My Hands“
- Pissed Alpacas “Coronavirus aka Covid-19 (Wash Your Hands, Don’t Touch Your Face)“
- Psychs “Spreadin’ (Coronavirus)“
- Mavis Staples “All In It Together”
- Tye Tribbett “We Gon’ Be Alright“
- Van “Coronavirus“
CORONA SONGS EN ESPANOL:
I’m ashamed to admit that I still haven’t taken the time to learn Spanish, even if I have some time now. I can’t attest to the lyrics but maybe you can just enjoy the music at least if you’re in the same boat as me. This isn’t a modest group of tunes either- some of them have racked up more views or listens than most of the songs above.
- Charlatan 69 “Coronavirus (feat. El Sinverguenzo E12)”
- Mahlano Da’don “Coronavirus”
- DJ Dance “Coronavirus”
- Marco Flores Y La Jerez “El Coronavirus”
- Dennis Fernando “Coronavirus (Cuidado Con El Coco)”
- Juanes Garcia, DJFXNC “Coronavirus”
- Kaseeno “Coronavirus”
- Los Rojos “Bailala Con el Coronavirus”
- Mister Cumbia “La Cumbia del Coronairus”