The songwriter was recently announced as one of the performers for this year’s edition of Farm Aid, the annual benefit concert for American farmers founded by Young, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and others.
When responding to a fan’s letter on his website that expressed excitement at the news, however, Young responded saying he wouldn’t be attending the festival. “I will not be at Farmaid this year,” Young replied. “I am not ready for that yet. I don’t think it is safe in the pandemic. I miss it very much.”
Young has not performed in public since 2019. His latest comments echo ones made in December of last year, when he said he wouldn’t be returning to touring until COVID-19 was “beat” and the pandemic was over. “I don’t care if I’m the only one who doesn’t do it,” he said during an interview with Howard Stern.
Last year, Young also called on promoters to cancel “super-spreader” gigs while a pandemic was still ongoing. “The big promoters, if they had the awareness, could stop these shows,” he wrote in a blog post on his site. “Live Nation, AEG, and the other big promoters could shut this down if they could just forget about making money for a while.”
Earlier this year, Neil Young pulled his music from Spotify, criticising the streaming service for platforming its exclusive Joe Rogan Experience podcast, which Young accused of spreading “false information about vaccines”. The likes of Joni Mitchell, Crazy Horse guitarist Nils Lofgren and more withdrew their music from the platform in solidarity.
In response to Young’s boycott, the streaming platform announced it would be adding content advisories to all relevant podcast episodes addressing the pandemic.