Pandemic inspires musical encouragement from Alice Cooper, Rick Springfield, Dolly Parton and others
By Melissa Ruggieri, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
June 10, 2020
Alice Cooper isn’t used to being off in the summer. The legendary rocker forever associated raccoon-eyed makeup, outlandish live performances and the rallying cry of “School’s Out” is typically zigzagging across the globe, bringing his thundering crunch rock to devotees.
But the past few months have allowed Cooper (née Vincent Furnier) to indulge in his beloved pastime — golfing — every day at 6:30 a.m., hole up with his family — including his adult children and his grandchildren — at his estate in Phoenix, binge-watching “Killing Eve,” “Ozark” and “Ghost Hunters.”
He’s also been acutely sensitive to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and, a few weeks ago, debuted the anthem, “Don’t Give Up.”
The 72-year-old musician said the song started with the chorus — “staring at the razor’s edge, don’t step off the ledge” — and he decided to speak the verses to infuse some gravity. “(I wanted it to sound) serious, but encouraging. I didn’t want it to be satire,” he said.
Cooper and his band – including guitarist Ryan Roxie, who lives in Sweden, guitarist Tommy Henriksen in Switzerland and guitarist Nita Strauss in Los Angeles – recorded the song remotely.
“I’m not a fan of technology because it takes away from the organic rock,” Cooper said. “But this band is so tight, you just send them the song once, and they got it.”
A supplementary benefit to “Don’t Give Up” is its stirring video. Cooper asked fans to send in photos of themselves brandishing signs of unity while using the song’s lyrics.
“We figured we’d get 1,500 people, and we got 20,000 and counting,” Cooper said, a tinge of amazement in his voice. “People are sitting home with all of this technology and time so they said, ‘I want to be in on this.’”
He estimates about 500 contributions are included in the video, but many more can be viewed on his website (alicecooper.com).
Also online – “Don’t Give Up” branded T-shirts and masks — Cooper said proceeds will benefit charity, and coming Aug. 14, a limited-edition 7-inch vinyl picture disc of the song.
“When you get that many people involved in one project it becomes, ‘let’s stay united in this,’” Cooper said. “This is a really dark, depressing time, but I’m an optimist.”
Cooper isn’t the only artist connecting with fans. Here are some other pandemic-inspired songs.
Rick Springfield & Friends, “The Wall Will Fall”
What began as a songwriting goof with pal Vance DeGeneres (brother of Ellen) turned into a soaring pop anthem and the inclusion of a parade of musicians including Paul Stanley, Sammy Hagar, Fred Schneider of The B-52s and Richard Marx, who provided the lyrics to the bridge of the song. All proceeds benefit FeedingAmerica.org.
Avery Sunshine, “How Will You Remember Me”
The Atlanta-based soul singer was asked by the Georgia group Loved Ones, Not Numbers, to provide a song for their website honoring those who died from COVID-19. Sunshine and musical partner and husband Dana Johnson wrote and recorded the poignant ballad last week and are inviting fans to send in photos of someone they've lost to the coronavirus, police brutality or any affliction to firstname.lastname@example.org for the upcoming video. (Those who submit will also receive a copy of the song.)
Dolly Parton, “When Life Is Good Again”
Always a source of comfort, Parton has delivered a sweet mandolin-inflected song that builds into a soaring chorus. Making amends, opening your heart to love and being “more thoughtful than I’ve been,” are among its messages. And when Parton looks into the camera and says, “It’s gonna be good again,” you believe her.
Turbo, Gunna and Young Thug, “Quarantine Clean”
Georgia producer Turbo teamed with Atlanta’s Gunna and Young Thug for a slick, finger-snapping groove that doesn’t specifically address the coronavirus much except for Young Thug’s lament, “Why would a disease come around when you get rich?”
Bon Jovi, “Do What You Can”
“We wrote this one together,” Jon Bon Jovi said online, encouraging fans to send in their stories to complete the verses of the song. “Talk about that prom you might not have, talk about the paycheck that you’re losing, talk about being afraid. Just remember… we’re gonna get through it,” he said. Bon Jovi received more than 6,000 #DoWhatYouCan submissions within the first two days.
Still more songs motivated by the pandemic
Drive-By Truckers, “Quarantine Together”; Twenty One Pilots, “Level of Concern”; Randy Newman, “Stay Away”; Reba McEntire, “What If” (updated video for the 1997 song to honor health care workers); Avril Lavigne, “We Are Warriors” (re-recorded to change the focus from her battle with Lyme disease to showcasing health care workers).
Melissa Ruggieri has covered music and entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2010 and created the Atlanta Music Scene blog. She's kept vampire hours for more than two decades and remembers when MTV was awesome.