Klaatu Guitarist Dee Long on Hope in the Age of COVID-19

"The COVID-19 pandemic is showing us that we must move forward from here without anger, hate or politics of fear. We must come together."

Self-isolation is easier when you live in a gated community and your front door is snowed in.

My name is Dee Long, guitarist, keyboard player and vocalist with the ‘70s Canadian band Klaatu. My wife Sydney and I are both 68 years old. I have several medical conditions, including asthma, and we are both considered at risk from this new virus.

That is why we have been self-isolating for weeks now. We live in a log cabin home in Sunshine Valley, B.C., which is in the district of Hope. Ironically, the second Klaatu album released in 1977 was titled “Hope,” which is a very beautiful song written by John Woloschuk. John also co-wrote the song “Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft,” with Terry Draper, which was a world-wide hit for The Carpenters, and became the signature song for our band.

This year started off with a lot of snow and rain in our area. New Year’s Eve brought us power failures that went on for days. I recall saying things will almost certainly get better from here on, then COVID-19 came along.

These days, I spend much of my time working in my home recording studio, watching Netflix, playing with our border collie, Lupa, or feeding our two cats, Lizzy and Bazinga. We have been retired for a few years now, so our day-to-day routine hasn’t changed much with self-isolation.

What has changed is the way we feel, watching as the world goes through a pandemic, and realizing that we are virtually trapped in our home. We are among the lucky ones. We shop for groceries once a week, bringing back essentials such as kitty litter and vodka, seems like eggs and “loo rolls” (as the British would say) are the new underground currency.

We hurt for the front-liners battling this disease. Their courage and dedication is incredible. We feel for those who have lost jobs and income. We cry for those who are dying without being able to see their families.

We live in a gated community 2,000 feet up the mountain from the town of Hope. Roughly half of the homeowners here are part-timers, most come up for the winter recreation season. We get a lot of snow here and there are many nearby parks and lakes. This time of year, we do not see many locals during normal times.

Today (April 4) I have not seen a single car on the road or a person walking by our house.

As more of the planet goes into lockdown, we are grateful that we can stay safe at home. I have worked with many of the best musicians in the world, and just found out that my good friend John Taylor of Duran Duran fame has recovered from COVID-19. At the same time, I am finding that more than a few well known and beloved artists have died from this virus.

I do believe that my wife Sydney and I may have already had COVID-19. My current band “The Wild Onions” played a fun gig in at the Sunshine Valley rec centre in October 2019. We performed for about 40 people, with the audience up dancing and shouting and having a truly wonderful time.

A few days later, Sydney came down with a very bad flu. I did not get sick at first but just as Sydney was feeling better, I got it. Wow, never had a flu like that before. It lasted for a few weeks, my lungs filled with fluid and it felt like I was drowning. I used several asthma inhalers to get through those days. My throat was so sore, I could only take liquids.

When my fever came down, I was still unable to breathe. We went to the hospital. They gave me steroids and a new inhaler that saved my life.

This was in late October; the current data shows the COVID-19 virus was first detected in early November 2019. Even so, we were in a room with 40 other people dancing in close proximity; is it not possible that one of those people had just flown in from China and brought this virus with them? Current data suggests it is very possible.

At this time, there is no way we can be sure that we are immune, so the only thing to do is go about our lives as if we are infected, and even possibly carriers of this disease. In fact, everyone for the foreseeable future should assume the worst. If we do that and act accordingly, we will achieve the best possible outcome.

This has been quite the disaster for the entertainment industry. Especially for gigging musicians, and the venues and booking agents that depend on the live music industry for everything. Many of my friends are in the entertainment industry and they are hurting.

It’s clear that in the future we will have to learn from this experience. My “Hope” is that empathy will become the norm rather than the exception. This pandemic is showing us that we must move forward from here without anger, hate or politics of fear. We must come together.

Next, find out what it’s like being an ER nurse fighting COVID-19 on the front line.

Originally Published in Our Canada