Coronavirus Has a Playlist. Songs About Disease Go Way Back.Watch the video
CARDI B: Coronavirus. Coronavirus. I’m telling ya. Shit is real.
NARRATION: An Instagram rant about coronavirus by rapper Cardi B has been viewed by millions. And it was remixed into a song that soared to the top of the charts.
CARDI B: Coronavirus. Shit is real. Shit is getting real. Shit is real.
NARRATION: It struck a chord with many Americans who are turning to music…
TWENTY ONE PILOTS: Wondering, would you be my little quarantine?
NARRATION: …to deal with life under stay-at-home orders.
JOJO: Stay in right now and do it for humanity. I’m deadass about that. But we will survive.
NARRATION: Singers like JoJo and Gmac Cash were among those creating songs for a genre being called “pandemic pop.”
GMAC CASH: I ain’t shakin’ no hands, I don’t want a hug. Make sure you wash your hands with a lot of love. So if you got that CV, they gon’ find you. If you coughin’, I ain’t tryna be around you.
NARRATION: It turns out there’s a rich history in music of writing about the hardships of life during disease outbreaks.
ESSIE JENKINS: It was in 1919.
NARRATION: The influenza pandemic that struck a century ago killed millions, and blues singers found ample material for social commentary.
ESSIE JENKINS: People’s dying everywhere. Death was creeping through the air and the groans of the rich sure was sad.
NARRATION: Gospel blues singer Blind Willie Johnson saw the flu as an apocalyptic warning from God.
BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON: Jesus comin’ soon.
NARRATION: And he sang about the social distancing of the time.
BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON: You better close your public schools. Until the events of death has ending, you better close your churches too.
NARRATION: In the decades that followed, there were songs about coal miners’ disease, hookworm and even the common cold.
CYNDI LAUPER: Tell me, where is little boy blue?
NARRATION: But the next big wave was in the 1980s and 90s as artists tried to raise awareness of a new epidemic sweeping the country - HIV/AIDS.
TLC: His health is fading and he doesn’t know why. Three letters took him to his final resting place. Y’all don’t hear me.
NARRATION: The R&B girl group TLC addressed unprotected sex in their song “Waterfalls.” And the rap group Wu-Tang Clan released a cut called “America” with an explicit warning.
WU-TANG CLAN: He’s layin on a respirator. Depending on a generator to keep his heart moving. AIDS kills, word up respect this, yo. Coming from the Wu, it’s real.
NARRATION: Today, coronavirus songwriting has gone as global as the pandemic itself.
A MEDLEY OF INTERNATIONAL SONGS ABOUT CORONAVIRUS
NARRATION: And in a twist, musicians are doing parodies of their own hits to urge fans to stay safe. Neil Diamond updated his 1969 song Sweet Caroline…
NEIL DIAMOND: Hands, touching hands.
NARRATION: …with new lyrics to fit the times.
NEIL DIAMOND: Don’t touch me, I won’t touch you. Sweet Caroline. Good times never seemed so good.