“The day the music died.” “Rock ’n’ roll will never die.”
Conflicting thoughts if ever there were — at least if taken literally. And now into the mix comes this: “I don’t want to lose music in America.”
The first quote comes from a Don McLean song about the deaths of Buddy Holly and other young rockers in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, in 1959. The second is a line in a Neil Young song, though Young is hardly the only person ever to have said it.
The third comes from Minnesota’s senior U.S. senator, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
Before we elaborate, here’s a fourth quote, from a notable turner of phrases who probably fails, nonetheless, to register in the modern mind — the 19th-century Englishman Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who wrote: “Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies.”
That we believe. Music never dies. But it can fall on hard times. And during the coronavirus pandemic, live music has fallen as hard or harder than many endeavors, simply because of its reliance on a shared experience.
Which is why Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, in collaboration with Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, has co-authored the Save Our Stages bill. It would provide Small Business Administration grants to independent music venues that expect to be closed through the rest of 2020 and may not reopen without help. Cost if approved: $10 billion. Largesse: Up to $12 million per venue. Funding source: An appropriation from the U.S. Treasury.
First, the attention to this issue is quintessentially Klobucharian. In addition to working across the aisle, the senator aims to address a national problem that yet has keen relevance to Minnesota. “You can’t have creative music and allow new artists and people like Prince — before he was a superstar in our state — without venues where they can perform,” she told Rolling Stone, alluding to places like First Avenue, the Minneapolis nightclub to which the late artist is inextricably linked. First Avenue’s owner, Dayna Frank, is president of the National Independent Venues Association, which was formed this year to address the financial damage of the pandemic.
Second, there’s a real benefit to be had from this legislation. Klobuchar — though perhaps less so since her presidential run — has been tagged as the “senator of small things.” She’s never thought she is, and indeed, bolstering an industry that feeds the dual hungers of entertainment and expression is no triviality. As Klobuchar notes, the legislation wouldn’t just help venues in big cities but also in places like Mankato or Fargo-Moorhead, and thus far the need isn’t being met by other relief efforts.
And third: Someday, someway, we’ll pay for this. Since the emergence of the coronavirus, economic relief measures have helped to grow the national debt by 14%, to $26.5 trillion. At low interest rates, the new debt is inexpensive to service, but it’s worth contemplating the perils of the arrangement.
But that’s a dour note, isn’t it? So let’s return to the quotes that kicked off this editorial. McLean’s song “American Pie” was not just about a plane crash but about the loss of innocence. Young’s song “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” is about passion tinged by the irony of impermanence.
Both messages are eternal.
As is this: Sometimes it takes cash to cover contingencies.