Coronavirus has already shut down the concert industry. Now the pandemic is making its impact felt more personally as musicians and other notable figures in the industry are being diagnosed with COVID-19.
On Sunday, the family of John Prine shared news that the songwriting great had been hospitalized “after a sudden onset" of COVID-19 symptoms.
Music social media immediately filled up with posts pulling for the 73-year-old singer-songwriter. Known for “Hello In There” and “Angel From Montgomery," Prine lives in Nashville and is a patron saint of the Americana roots music scene.
His condition was initially described as critical. But his wife, Fiona, who also tested positive, posted an update on Monday that she had recovered and that her husband was stable. “Sing his songs. Stay home and wash hands. John loves you. I love you.”
For Philadelphia music fans, word of Prine‘s condition came on top of news about Gene Shay, the beloved folk music DJ and cofounder of the Philadelphia Folk Festival.
On Friday, Shay’s son-in-law Tom Vaughan posted on Facebook that Shay, who turned 85 this month, tested positive for the virus and was put on a ventilator in an intensive-care unit at Lankanau Medical Center in Wynnewood, where he lives.
The Philly folk music community sent love and prayers to the radio legend born Ivan Shaner, who first brought Bob Dylan to Philadelphia in 1963 and who late DJ Ed Sciaky once called “the father of FM rock radio in Philadelphia.”
He’s best known for a Sunday night folk show format he starting hosting at WHAT-FM in 1962. He would continue it, on various Philadelphia stations, until 2015.
Over the course of the weekend, Vaughan updated Shay’s friends and fans with encouraging news. On Monday, he reported that there was ”slow and steady progress towards the point where he can be removed from the ventilator. He’s not there yet, but so far, so good.”
On Sunday night on WXPN-FM (88.5), Ian Zolitor, who took over as host of the Folk Show from Shay in 2015, paid tribute to his mentor, as well as to Prine and Tom Rush, the 79-year-old folkie and frequent performer at the Philly Folk Fest who announced Saturday on Twitter that he had tested positive for coronavirus.
That news followed word earlier last week that 1970s songwriter Jackson Browne, who’s 71, has the coronavirus. In a Rolling Stone interview, Browne, who has said his symptoms have been mild, guessed that he might have caught the virus when he was playing a benefit concert at the Beacon Theater in New York on March 12.
Former Bob Dylan guitarist Larry Campbell, who sometimes performs at Philly venues such as Ardmore Music Hall with his wife, Teresa Williams, played the same benefit as Browne and also tested positive. (The couple last performed in Philly last May.) This weekend, Williams said that his condition was improving.
Last week, Houston rapper Scarface of the Geto Boys, creators of the 1991 classic “Mind Playing Tricks On Me,” announced that he had tested positive after being ill for most of March.
“The whole three weeks has been an ordeal,” said the rapper, whose real name is Brad Jordan. “It’s the craziest [stuff] I have ever done and seen in my life. I been to the point where I felt I was just gonna die.”
Another Houston rapper, Slim Thug, known for “Check On It,” his 2005 collaboration with Beyoncé, also announced he tested positive.
“Don’t think that because you’re young you can’t get it,” the 39-year-old told a Houston TV station. "Anybody can get it … It’s still going to have you feeling a certain way so my advice to everybody is to avoid it.”
Several well-known musicians have died from complications of the virus.
Manu Dibango, the Cameroonian sax player best known for his 1972 Afro-funk hit “Soul Makossa,” passed away last Tuesday.
Country singer Joe Diffie, 61, whose 1990s hits included “Pickup Man” and “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die),” succumbed to coronavirus complications Sunday.
And Alan Merrill, who cowrote and sang “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” with his band the Arrows before it became a career-defining hit for Joan Jett, died on Sunday. “I still remember watching the Arrows on TV in London and being blown away by the song that screamed hit to me,” Jett tweeted.