June 2020 Recap: Rock Gets Political Over George Floyd and Trump
The intertwining of music and politics were the biggest stories in rock in June 2020.
The anti-racism protests that began after the late-May death of George Floyd continued, and the music industry reacted by creating "Blackout Tuesday," where major labels shut down business for a day. Many more artists issued statements condemning systemic racism and police brutality, with Axl Rose placing much of the blame on President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, some musicians expressed displeasure at their music being played at Trump's campaign rallies.
Elsewhere, Motley Crue held out as long as possible against postponing their big summer tour but finally made the call less than three weeks before it was supposed to begin. But drummer Tommy Lee turned it into a positive, announcing that he had a solo album on the way, previewing it with a pair of new songs. And late Rush drummer Neil Peart was given a permanent tribute in his hometown, while the ongoing coronavirus pandemic put a spotlight on the dangers facing independent live music venues.
The Music Industry Speaks Out Against Racism
As the Black Lives Matter protests continued into June, the major record labels issued statements against racism, shuttering their offices on June 2 and encouraging all to "disconnect from work and reconnect with our community.” Individual artists continued to speak out. Bruce Springsteen called George Floyd's killing a "21st-century visual lynching" and devoted his weekly SiriusXM radio show to songs about racism. Stevie Wonder, who helped make Martin Luther King Day a national holiday, said that the best way to bring an end to systemic racism and police brutality is by voting. Nell Young was optimistic that the Black Lives Matter movement was changing people's attitudes, and Black Sabbath created a T-shirt with "Black Lives Matter" echoing the lettering found on their classic Master of Reality album. The repercussions were felt all over the world, as countries grappled with the notion of systemic racism. The city of Liverpool even looked into the history of Penny Lane, the street immortalized in a 1967 Beatles song, to see if it was named after an 18th-century slave trader named James Penny before determining it wasn't. Plus, the Beatles' R&B roots and rock's complex history with the Confederate flag were examined.
Rockers vs. President Trump
As the presidential election campaign intensified, artists stepped up their criticism of President Donald Trump. Axl Rose accused him of sowing the seeds of hatred and anarchy and called Trump a "truly bad, repulsive excuse for a person, with a sick agenda." The estate of Tom Petty issued a cease-and-desist order to stop Trump's campaign from playing "I Won't Back Down" at campaign rallies, and the Rolling Stones threatened to sue the president if the unauthorized use of their music on the campaign trail, a fight started in 2016, continued. Former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, on the other hand, praised Trump's speech a week after George Floyd's death, calling his tone "strong and direct."
Motley Crue Postpone Tour as Tommy Lee Resumes Solo Career
Less than three weeks before it was to have started, Motley Crue postponed their anticipated tour with Def Leppard, Poison and Joan Jett until 2021, although they've also offered refunds. Tommy Lee said the band had planned an even bigger production than usual because shows would have taken place in stadiums instead of arenas, calling it "fucking ridiculous." Four days after the announcement of the delay, the drummer announced the October release of Andro, unveiled two tracks, "Knock Me Down" and "Tops," and promised a "dark and sexy" cover of Prince's "When You Were Mine." Lee also became the titular subject of a track by rapper Tyla Yaweh featuring Post Malone, with a remix created by Lee a few days later.
Neil Peart Gets Honored in His Hometown
Six months after Neil Peart's death, the residents of his hometown of St. Catharines, Ontario, voted to rename the pavilion at Lakeside Park in honor of the Rush drummer, with an overwhelming majority of the local population - 81 percent - being in favor of it. The park was the subject of a song found on the band's 1975 LP, Caress of Steel. Also in June, Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson admitted it was difficult for him to find the motivation to pick up the guitar in the aftermath of his longtime friend's death.
Save Our Stages
As the coronavirus pandemic lockdown entered its third month, concerns over the future of live music began to be expressed. The National Independent Venue Association projected that 90 percent of clubs around the U.S. could be permanently shuttered inside of six months without federal assistance, with the industry losing an estimated $9 billion in ticket sales alone. Even reducing capacities, it said, would not help, because of the costs involved with opening the buildings. By mid-June, hundreds of artists from across the musical spectrum - with Robert Plant, Ozzy Osbourne, Neil Young and Dave Grohl leading the way - signed a letter to Congress urging it to intervene. A $900 billion bill passed by Congress shortly before Christmas incorporated the Save Our Stages act, authorizing $15 billion in grants to independent clubs, theaters and other cultural institutions.