Van Morrison has been an outspoken critic of the UK COVID-19 lockdowns, going as far as releasing an anti-lockdown song series. In an interview with The Sunday Times, the Irish musician claimed the negative reaction to his song series is the product of freedom of speech no longer being “in the framework.”
Seeming to confuse freedom of speech with freedom from criticism, Van Morrison remarked,
“A few people got a petition together to end the lockdown, but nobody pays attention to petitions, do they? If I can write about it, I do. Poetic licence, freedom of speech . . . these used to be OK. Why not now? I don’t understand it. Some people call it a cult. It is like a religion. Whether anyone agrees with me or not is irrelevant. Just as there should be freedom of the press, there should be freedom of speech, and at the minute it feels like that is not in the framework. If you do songs that are an expression of freedom of speech you get a very negative reaction.”
Morrison also praised fellow UK classic rocker Eric Clapton for being “the only other person who has any traction or motivation to speak out about what’s going on, to get out there and question things.” Clapton joined Van Morrison for one of his anti-lockdown protest songs, “Stand and Deliver”, in late December 2020.
Before the interview was over, Van Morrison provided his two cents on when live music might return. His answer was unsurprising: “Klaus [Schwab, the executive chairman of the World Economic Forum] is running the whole thing. Your guess is as good as mine because freedom is not a given anymore,” he claimed. “You have to fight for it. That’s where the blues come in.”
Back in August 2020, Van Morrison made his views on the COVID-19 pandemic known by referring to socially distanced concerts as “pseudo-science”. He then released a series of anti-lockdown songs, including “Born to Be Free”, “As I Walked Out”, “No More Lockdown” and the aforementioned “Stand and Deliver”. His sitdown with The Time was in promotion of Latest Record Project: Volume 1, his upcoming double album that includes song titles like “They Own the Media”, “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”, and “Tried to Do the Right Thing”.
It’s worth noting that although COVID-19 cases are currently down in the UK, the prime minister himself has expressed concern about a third wave that could “wash up on our shores” from the rest of Europe.