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I'm in the music business, the volume business. Making a lot of noise is something musicians do well. -- Bono

Column: Off the Record...Vol. 20-786

Finding Hope In A Pandemic

OTR off the record 2019 1200px


How are you doing? You OK? Feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything? Yeah, me too. I’ve had to do some things around the house to maintain some sense of “normalcy.” I have created a “Today it is…” poster where I physically have to change the day of the week and the day of the month. Every day seems to blend together. Thankfully, my kids have school from home and my husband is working from home, so I still have some structure to the week. Any bit of “normal,” like homework assignments, is a welcome addition to our day, although my kids will disagree with me about having to do homework.

The other normal activity in my life so far is connecting with my U2 fan family. My friend Lauren hosted about 15 of us via Zoom for U2 trivia. U2.com has been hosting fan club concert viewing parties where we can all connect as if it’s a show night. Other friends are hosting Facebook live gigs where they’re performing U2 songs acoustically. I feel just as connected to my fan-mily as I ever have. I am grateful for that connection.

The past few weeks have also provided us all with shared viewing experiences on television and on the socials to support those impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Elton John hosted the iHeart Living Room Concert for America on Fox. Verizon Fios hosts Pay It Forward – Live to support small businesses, featuring Luke Bryan and Ryan Tedder, as well as others. The Academy of Country Music (ACM) presented Our Country with country artists performing from home. This past Saturday, there was the eight-hour One World Together At Home event, organized by Global Citizen and curated by Lady Gaga. These programs have been consistent in showing gratitude to those on the front lines of the pandemic, as well as educating us all on what we can do to stop the spread.

The One World Together At Home telecast was likened to this generation’s Live Aid. The outreach for this event was incredible. My kids were watching it in Roblox and made me aware of the preshow performances. Think about if Live Aid had that type of social media and gaming platform outreach! It’s been 35 years since artists took the stage in London and Philadelphia to raise awareness about famine in Africa. There was very little overlap in artists who performed at Live Aid and the Global Citizen event. While Mick Jagger performed solo in 1985, Global Citizen’s Hugh Evans said on SiriusXM’s preshow for the event that the Rolling Stones regretted not participating as a group at Live Aid. Evans said the Stones didn’t want to miss out on this one. Music journalist Lori Majewski asked Evans during SiriusXM's One World Together At Home preshow coverage why there wasn’t any mention of U2 for this occasion, and he answered with a chuckle saying, “no comment.”

This was quite the surprise for U2 fans, to be honest. This was an event catered to the humanitarian aspects of what U2 stand for, curated by a friend of the band and produced by an organization the band already has a solid connection to. It would have been a no-brainer! But, let’s look at this from a different perspective: it was this generation’s Live Aid moment. "Every generation gets a chance to change the world," right? By not participating in a public way, the band members allowed other artists to have the spotlight. U2’s provided financial support to Ireland to obtain PPE. Bono’s been called upon to meet with other world leaders to secure additional help for Ireland to combat the pandemic. “Let Your Love Be Known” was shared on March 17 via the band’s social channels and was dedicated to all of the doctors and nurses on the front lines fighting the pandemic. It’s not like the band’s not doing their part! We also don’t know what Bono’s been up to behind the scenes with ONE as the organization mobilizes to meet the needs of its constituents in Africa and elsewhere. I know they’re serving in the ways they can, which might be a bit more meaningful than sharing a 30-second message on a global telecast or performing a song.

The Edge told Rolling Stone’s Andy Greene in 2017, “I’m interested to see if in this new post-truth world, music sort of reconnects with the activist-protest thread that it had for so many years and seems to have lost recently. I think that aspect of music has always been, to my mind, an important, crucial part of what drew me to it, and why I think a lot of people are drawn to it. So I feel that this is a moment where music might go through a kind of renaissance of a kind and I’m very excited to see what young kids in their garages across North America and Europe are going to be writing about and releasing over the next number of years. I think it’s time to get back to some of that.” Fast-forward three years later and I believe we’re starting to see a movement forming. It might have taken a pandemic to do it, but seeing younger artists becoming involved in these social justice events, like One World Together At Home, gives me hope that we will see a resurgence of awareness of humanitarian issues and a desire to do something about it.

We all need hope at this time in our lives. Music is powerful enough to inspire hope. Songs Of Experience has been on constant rotation for me through this past month. I’m finding strength in “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way,” especially as I sing “And if the moonlight caught you crying on Killiney Bay, oh sing your song, let your song be sung…if you listen you can hear the silence say, when you think you’re done, you’ve just begun” as I wash my hands (yup, it’s 20 seconds long).

As we all continue our separated togetherness, I hope you’ll take comfort in knowing that there is a vibrant fan-mily of us U2ers who are all globally connected and we’re only a tweet, atu2 forum or a Zootopia post away from each other. There is no them – there’s only us.

Be well. Wash your hands. Stay 6-feet away from me, please. ‘Til next time…

©@U2/Lawrence, 2020

Any opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views of @U2 as a whole.