DEVO and the Coronavirus

When something I love intersects with something I hate.
Gregor Gilliom

They say the music you hear in middle school, as the brain is still congealing, is the music you’ll love more than any for the rest of your life. It’s certainly true for me. The imprint happened the summer between 7th and 8th grade, in Bill Wagenbrenner’s basement, listening to his older brother’s New Wave albums. Gary Neuman. The B-52s. And my all-time favorite, DEVO.

I could write a million words about DEVO and their influence on pop music and music videos (huge); the fact that their de-evolutionary art/video/music movement was inspired by both Captain Beefheart and the Kent State shootings they witnessed as students; their legendary shows at CBGB, which caught the attention of David Bowie; their amazing covers of Stones and Hendrix songs; their early work with Brian Eno. DEVO’s quasi-punk electronic music, their hazmat suits and red energy domes, and just their whole deadpan, outsider nerd vibe will never, ever get old to me. (Did I mention they’re from Ohio?)

So imagine my reaction when I learned that DEVO founder Mark Mothersbaugh nearly died of COVID-19.

Mark, 70, was in fine health until he spent just a few minutes near someone who was infected and wasn’t wearing a mask. As a result, Mark spent 18 frightening and delusional days in the hospital, many on a ventilator. We came very, very close to losing him. The fact that he rebounded and is already back to work is one of the few good pieces of news we’ve had lately.

We need to continue to take this virus seriously. And not just for ourselves, or our families, or communities — we need to do it for our heroes. Think about it: all the people we admired growing up — the rock starts and actors and writers and sports greats — are now in prime COVID vulnerability.

I know Mark Mothersbaugh has many more years of amazing new music and soundtracks in him. I don’t want it to stop. Let’s mask up and stay distanced for people like him.

As DEVO would say, duty now for the future.