20 Classic Rock Stories That Made Headlines In 2020
Neil Peart - DrumChannel.com / Youtube
Admit it, no one was ready for 2020. We were all fine for the first few months except for the passing of Rush’s Neil Peart, but then things suddenly took a turn for the worst – the COVID-19 pandemic sucker-punched every single facet of life on the planet, the rock industry not being spared. Here are some of the biggest stories from classic rock that made 2020 quite the year.
Neil Peart’s Death
The Rush drummer was sadly taken from us after three long years of battling brain cancer, passing away on January 7. Tributes and messages of love poured for Neil Peart, both from drummers like himself and acts that acknowledged his contributions to music. He was also honored with an all-star tribute at the Modern Drummer Festival along with a park pavilion from his hometown being named after him.
David Lee Roth Goes Active Again (Briefly)
David Lee Roth took to Las Vegas for a residency commitment that would mark his first string of solo shows in over 13 years. Just a month later, he joined KISS on a tour but was cut short by the lockdowns following the spread of the coronavirus.
Rock Hall of Fame’s Long-Awaited Inductees
The Rock Hall of Famers for this year was announced, which included the Doobie Brothers, T-Rex, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Whitney Houston, and The Notorious B.I.G., while Motorhead, Soundgarden, and Judas Priest failed to do so. The event was also held virtually with a pre-recorded TV special that featured Ringo Starr, Iggy Pop, the Eagles, and actress Charlize Theron inducting the new nominees.
Ozzy’s Health Issues and New Album
The Prince of Darkness just announced in January that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and had been battling it since 2003. This also forced him to cancel his 2020 tour plans just before the pandemic hit, but Ozzy was also able to complete his new solo album, Ordinary Man, in the process.
Dokken’s Health Issues
Don Dokken of his eponymous band also revealed his afflictions this year, having been quoted to have said that he couldn’t use his hands due to spinal surgery complications. Things were looking better as he broke the news of recovery but suddenly went downhill when he revealed four months later that he could no longer play the guitar. Meanwhile, the band is preparing for an album release by 2021.
Aerosmith vs Joey Kramer
While the MusiCares award for Aerosmith was a moment of celebration, drummer Joey Kramer surprised everyone by suing his bandmates, claiming that they barred him from performing at the said event and the Grammys. He was insulted when the band asked him to audition for his role again, along with him being denied entry into their rehearsal space. They made up, however, with Kramer joining Aerosmith for the MusiCares acceptance even if he didn’t perform, and rejoined the band for their Deuces are Wild Vegas residency in February.
While fans were eager with the return of Genesis – comprised of Phil Collins, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford – the pandemic stopped them from doing so. They were forced to postpone their UK and Ireland tour to 2021 instead.
Mass Music Event Postponements, COVID Infections
As public gatherings were basically banned from happening, so did concerts and live performances of artists. This meant no livelihood and income for artists, especially the smaller acts. As an aid, various artists held virtual benefit shows including Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and more. Artists contracting COVID-19 also began spreading like wildfire, with losses like John Prine due to complications from the coronavirus being one of the most notable cases in the industry.
Queen’s Brian May Recovers from Heart Attack
Brian May suffered a lot of health problems this year as well. First off, he was hospitalized after injuring his gluteus maximus while gardening and was in pain for several weeks due to a compressed sciatic nerve being discovered by doctors. He also suffered from a mini heart attack and was diagnosed with three congested arteries which prompted him to have three stents implanted to improve blood flow to his heart.
After years of rumors, AC/DC officially announces their comeback in the industry with the reunion of Brian Johnson, Angus Young, Cliff Williams, Phil Rudd, and Stevie Young. Johnson had just come back from his hearing loss dilemma thanks to new experimental technology, while the band was still reeling from the death of Malcolm Young. Material written by the late guitarist would make it to the Power Up album later in the year.
Publishing Rights of Artists Sold
Poor income from streaming partnerships and the economic instability due to the pandemic forced artists to sell off their material’s rights to publishers. Notable names include Bob Dylan who sold over 600 songs for a whopping $400 million while Stevie Nicks sold 80% of her work from both Fleetwood Mac and her solo career for about $100 million.
Journey Scuffle and Lineup Change
The band accused bassist Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith of trying to take control of the band’s name, which was met with a countersuit by the former on grounds of breach of contract and causing emotional distress. Mainstays Jonathan Cain and Neal Schon asserted dominance by replacing the two with Randy Jackson on bass, drummer Narada Michael Walden, and keyboardist/singer Jason Derlatka.
Roger Waters Tries to Make up with Pink Floyd
The bassist attempted to make peace by going over the subject of reissues of Pink Floyd’s material. In a conversation with Rolling Stone, he shared: “I wrote out sort of a plan but my plan didn’t bear fruit. [The conversation] was just can we release the remastered vinyl of Animals without it turning into the third World War? I said, ‘Why don’t we just have a vote? There’s only three of us. And then we can decide all those like that.’ And at least we can just get on. But they wouldn’t have that. They didn’t want it.”
Tom Petty’s Long-Awaited Wildflowers continuation finally released
Tom Petty originally envisioned Wildflowers to be a double album but was dissuaded by his label in the process. Luckily, the unheard material was revisited recently and included outtakes, demos, home recordings, and more for those who wanted a peek into his creations in 1994.
Wolfgang Van Halen Debuts
Eddie Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang, unveiled that he was releasing his own solo album soon and was ready for the “wave of hate” that would surround him then. But the sudden death of his father overshadowed his undertaking and forced him to deal with people who were trying to profit off his father’s name. He survived it all and released “Distance” in November while also announcing that he’d be working under the Mammoth WVH name for his solo project.
Death of Eddie Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen dies at 65 in October due to cancer, which spurred a ton of tributes and homages to the legendary guitarist’s legacy. Fans also speculated about the material he left behind, although Wolfgang has assured that there would be no rushed posthumous releases. It was also revealed that EVH and Sammy Hagar had reconnected before the guitarist’s passing and that talks of a Kitchen Sink tour were on the way which saw all the former members reuniting – only to be snuffed out by Van Halen’s death.
Trump and Rock and Roll
US President Donald Trump surely earned the ire and support of a lot of rock artists in 2020. Names like Roger Waters, Guns N’ Roses, Tom Petty, and The Rolling Stones were among those who disapproved of him, while supporters included Johnny Rotten, Ace Frehley, and Krist Novoselic. He has since been defeated by Joe Biden and is set to vacate the seat, prompting artists to express their reactions to the event on social media.
Bouncing Back from COVID-19
As transmission has been slowly falling down in recent weeks and the promise of vaccines being rolled out worldwide on the horizon, the music industry is eyeing to make a comeback in 2021. This is evident in live events being scheduled as fans have been waiting to attend such concerts for a long time now.
George Floyd and BLM
After the horrendous death of George Floyd at the hands of policemen, this sparked the massive Black Lives Matter Movement which resonated throughout the world. Rockers such as Flea and Sammy Hagar urged peace and equality while fighting for change, while Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Paul Stanley, among others, denounced the violence and called for the betterment of society.
Best Records of 2020
While 2020 was surely a hard year for rock artists, some still managed to push out albums. Bruce Springsteen had Letter To You, AC/DC unveiled Power Up, Ozzy had Ordinary Man, along with Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways and Paul McCartney’s McCartney III, among others.