- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 19, 2021

Neil Young has canceled plans to perform at the upcoming annual Farm Aid benefit concert he co-founded over safety concerns sparked by the continuing novel coronavirus pandemic still going strong.

“I don’t want to let anybody down, but still can’t shake the feeling that it might not be safe for everyone. I worry about audiences coming together in these times,” Mr. Young said Wednesday.

“My soul tells me it would be wrong to risk having anyone die because they wanted to hear music and be with friends,” the Canadian-American musician wrote on his official “Neil Young Archives” website.

Farm Aid co-founders Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp still remain scheduled to perform this year as planned, in addition to nearly a dozen other artists including David Matthews and Sturgill Simpson.

All attendees of Farm Aid 2021 will be required to show either proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or proof of a negative COVID-19 test administered no more than 48 hours before entering the venue.

Vaccines are greatly effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19, the contagious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but they do not fully stop people from spreading it to others.

Indeed, reported cases of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths have increased around the U.S. in recent weeks notwithstanding around half the country’s population being fully vaccinated.

The rate of hospitalization for children with COVID-19 also recently hit its highest level recently since the pandemic started, and vaccines are not currently available for kids under 12 years of age.

“I worry about the children who could become infected after Farmaid, just by being with someone, maybe a parent, who caught the virus at Farmaid and didn’t know it. There are already too many children in hospitals,” Mr. Young, 75, wrote on his website. “While I respect Willie, John and Dave’s decisions to stick with it and play, I am not of the same mind. It is a tough call.”

By dropping from this year’s Farm Aid line-up, Mr. Young joins a growing list of major performing artists to recently call off concert plans on account of concerns involving the increased COVID-19 cases.

Garth Brooks separately announced Wednesday he was canceling stadium dates in five cities due to the spike in cases. “I realize we are still in the fight and I must do my part,” said the country singer.

Rap-rock group Limp Bizkit and Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks similarly canceled their respective summer tours last week over concerns about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases around the country.

Mr. Young, Mr. Nelson and Mr. Mellencamp started Farm Aid in 1985 to raise money for American farmers. Each sits on its board of directors with Mr. Matthews and two others, Margo Price and Annie Nelson.

Farm Aid has been held annually in some form or another every year since its formation except 1988 and 1991. Mr. Nelson, 88, has performed every year, while the other co-founders have played at nearly all.

Tickets for Farm Aid 2021 went on sale July 23 but have sold out since. The event is scheduled for Sept. 25 at the Xfinity Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut, a 30,000-person-capacity outdoor amphitheater.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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