For obvious reasons, streams and downloads of R.E.M.‘s 1987 anthem “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” have exploded over the past week as the nation wakes up to the ever-expanding threat of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic threat. With social distancing as the new norm and everyone (hopefully) hunkered down in their homes and apartments on St. Patrick’s Day on Tuesday (March 17), the band’s singer, Michael Stipe, offered up a new, a cappella version of the song along with some helpful tips.
In a selfie video, Stipe sings the chorus of the song, then abruptly stops and adds, “I do feel fine. I fell okay. The important part of that lyric, that song title is ‘as we know it,'” he says. “We’re about to go through, we are going through something that none of us have ever encountered before, and that is, of course, the coronavirus. And it’s real and it’s serious and it’s here.”
Stipe said he’s been texting and FaceTimeing with friends in Italy — which has rapidly become one of the fastest-growing hub of infections — and he said the message they have for Americans is simple: please take this seriously and don’t leave your house unless you have to. “So I’m bunkering. I’m quarantining. I’m Q.S.Q – quasi self-quarantined for several days now and that’s going to continue because I don’t want to go outside, I don’t want to be responsible for getting someone else sick if I’m already sick. I don’t think I am, but none of us know if we are,” he said.
In addition to a short clip on Twitter, Stipe shared a longer, nearly five-minute version on his site, in which he gave much of the same crucial advice many of us have been hearing for several weeks now: wash you hands for 20 seconds, but “don’t sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice, it’s already depressing and sad. Find another song, a good, happy, calming song — your blue sky song and do that.”
He also reminded people not to go out unless they have to and if they do need groceries, stay six feet away from everyone else and don’t cough or sneeze in public, and if you do sanitize your hands right away. “We can do this you guys, we can pull it together, we can make it happen. This is f—ing 2020, let’s get our s–t together, let’ make it happen.”
But perhaps his most sage advice was to be careful where you get your information from. “I’m a former pop star… got to the CDC, go to trusted news sources. Don’t trust social media to tell you what is or is not scary or contagious or weird.”
For information on how to stay safe and receive updates on the spread of the disease in the U.S., visit the CDC website.