Van Morrison is one of music’s storied curmudgeons, an irritable genius who tours infrequently and seems to delight in making the lives of interviewers miserable.
Now, the cranky, Belfast-born “Brown Eyed Girl” soul singer has a new target for his ire: governments whose forced shutdowns of performance spaces have prevented him from reaching people and earning a living.
The United Kingdom recently reduced the number people allowed at social gatherings to six from 30 as it braced for a second wave of the pandemic.
On Friday, Morrison announced on his website that he will release three new protest songs that make it clear “how unhappy he is with the way the [U.K.] government has taken away personal freedoms.”
The first, “Born to Be Free,” comes out Friday. It features Morrison singing, “The new normal, is not normal, it’s no kind of normal at all.... Don’t need the government cramping my style / Give them an inch, they take a mile.”
The lyrics of “As I Walked Out,” due Oct. 9, are clunkier, as they recount the early days of the pandemic. “Well, from the government website from the 21st March 2020 / It said COVID-19 was no longer high risk / Then two days later, they put us under lockdown.”
The third song, “No More Lockdowns,” is to come out Oct. 23. It calls those who impose crowd limits “fascist bullies” and proclaims: “No more taking of our freedom, and our God-given rights / Pretending it’s for our safety, when it’s really to enslave.”
In a statement, Morrison said: “I’m not telling people what to do or think, the government is doing a great job of that already. It’s about freedom of choice. I believe people should have a right to think for themselves.”
The announcement of the new songs follows comments Morrison made last month, railing against what he called the “pseudo-science” of requiring social distancing at concerts.
“We need to be playing to full-capacity audiences going forward,” the 75-year-old singer said, adding “Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and myself appear to be the only people in the music business trying to get it back up and running again.”
On Friday, Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann told the BBC: “I don’t know where he gets his facts. I know where the emotions are on this, but I will say that sort of messaging is dangerous.
“Our messaging is about saving lives,” Swann said. "If Van wanted to sing a song about saving lives, then that would be more in keeping with where we are at the minute.”
Morrison isn’t the only British rocker to make headlines this week for airing his contempt for masks and other coronavirus restrictions.
Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher said on a podcast, “There are too many … liberties being taken away from us now.... I don’t [care]. I choose not to wear one, and if I get the virus, it’s on me, it’s not on anyone else.”
His brother, Oasis singer Liam Gallagher, took a contrary view: “Don’t like but it’s gotta be done,” he Tweeted, adding “it’s a crime to hide this face.”
Across the pond this week in Fort. Lauderdale, Fla., a group of anti-mask protesters marched through a Target store blasting and singing along to Twisted Sister’s 1984 hit, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Dee Snider, the singer for the New Jersey hair-metal band, voiced his displeasure on Twitter: “No ... these selfish [people] do not have my permission or blessing to use my song for their moronic cause.”