Morrison revealed last week that he had recorded tracks with lyrics that called government authorities “fascist bullies” who were “making up crooked facts” to “enslave” the population. Northern Ireland recently tightened social-distancing restrictions in a bid to head off a predicted second wave of COVID-19 infections in the coming month.
“We in Northern Ireland are very proud of the fact that one of the greatest music legends of the past 50 years comes from our part of the world,” minister Robin Swann told Rolling Stone. “So there’s a real feeling of disappointment – we expected better from him. However, it goes further than disappointment. Some of what is he saying is actually dangerous. It could encourage people to not to take coronavirus seriously. If you see it all as a big conspiracy, then you are less likely to follow the vital public health advice that keeps you and others safe.”
Swann noted that, while it’s “legitimate to ask if the right balance is being found in what is being done,” Morrison was “going way beyond raising questions. … It’s actually a smear on all those involved in the public health response to a virus that has taken lives on a massive scale. His words will give great comfort to the conspiracy theorists – the tin foil-hat brigade who crusade against masks and vaccines and think this is all a huge global plot to remove freedoms.”
He quoted Morrison as having recently said, “I’m apolitical. I’ve got nothing to say about politics whatsoever” and argued that, if the singer wanted to become political, he could have chosen a wide range of topics to sing about. “Instead, he’s chosen to attack attempts to protect the old and vulnerable in our society. It’s all bizarre and irresponsible. I only hope no one takes him seriously. He’s no guru, no teacher.”
Meanwhile, alt-country singer-songwriter Jason Isbell revealed his own disappointment in Morrison before covering the veteran’s classic song “Into the Mystic.” Isbell said on the streaming show I So Lounging, “There was a time in the past when our dear Van Morrison had such beautiful music, such beautiful songs, that everyone paid attention to him. Now that that time has passed. … Now he likes to say things like, ‘The government asking you to not give everyone the COVID-19 virus is akin to slavery.’ I disagree with that statement very much.”
Isbell said he was going to perform “Into the Mystic” “in remembrance of when Van was merely not nice and wasn’t public about his denial of science. … I don’t know that this [mask] will protect me from the virus – but I’d like for it to protect me from Van.” You can watch the performance below.