Perhaps if my kids were a few years younger they might be asking their old man if he’s ever seen anything like this in his lifetime. The daily death count; world shutdown; deserted streets in Manhattan, Paris, and Rome; refrigerated trucks parked outside hospitals; panic buying of toilet paper; the complete failure and incompetency of the American government; and all that other crazy stuff we’ve been experiencing. “Nope,” I would reply, “this is all new to me.” All I have is a vivid memory of standing in line with hundreds of other kids to receive the polio vaccine on top of a sugar cube back in the ’50s, but maybe it was just an injection and I’m mixing things up with a different decade.
Today we are grateful to all the people who are still working each day to deliver us pizza; fill our prescriptions; sell necessities such as food, liquor, cigarettes, and guns; keep us alive; telecommute so the economic wheels don’t fall off; teach the kids; and whatever needs to be done. For many of us, we’re sitting home and looking for stuff to keep us busy. Knock out that to-do list, read a book, find a movie, binge watch Tiger King, stare and share at social media, organize the sock drawer, and if you get totally bonkers you can take a solitary walk outside with your hands in gloves and face covered up. I’m personally switching off using two cowboy-style bandanas, one red and the other blue, so that on any given day I’m either a target for the Crips or the Bloods.
Over the last week a new type of Candy Crush-style mania has taken hold on Facebook that involves challenging people to post what concerts they’ve attended from A to Z. You’d have to be an online hermit to miss this fad, and I personally found it only mildly interesting for about two and a half minutes. It’s boring enough to try and remember my own concert history let alone to get excited that somebody has seen both Queen and X.
Some have taken this challenge to new heights, like the friend who not only listed the musicians alphabetically, but added the venues as well. But after posting it he had second thoughts when he realized it looked so “white.” So he created a second one using only those of color, and failed to complete D, I, N, U, V, X, and Z. He wrote “I’m not terribly proud of what it reveals, and am tempted to come up with a third list limited only to female performers.” Well, he did that too. It was indeed an impressive list, missing only I and Q before he threw in the towel after choosing Lucinda Williams for W.
For my part I’ve been lurking online enjoying those impromptu concerts that so many musicians have been posting. I’ve learned that Larkin Poe do some of the best guitar playing I’ve ever heard, wished that Rufus Wainwright would keep his robe closed a bit more, and never knew that Garth Brooks’ “Thunder Rolls” was originally meant to be recorded by Trisha Yearwood. I’ve also been on the hunt for both new and old music to listen to and sharing it with friends.
Which brings me to John Prine. As I write this on Thursday, April 2, at 7 p.m. — hours past my deadline — I don’t know whether he will live or die. Since his wife, Fiona, shared that he’d been hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms and was not doing well, social media has brought together his legion of fans and friends. I cannot recall this many people touched by a man and his music in such a tsunami-like outpouring of emotion since perhaps when John Lennon left us. Thanks to the magic of YouTube, I have been revisiting many of his performances and interviews. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, and I am sitting here in both hope and fear. A world without this John will never be the same.