Stipe first traced Trump’s rise to President: “He started as a failed midtown real estate developer, then became a successful reality TV star,” he said. “Now we get this bloviating, puff-adder sack of lies. What next?”
He also looked back on how he first got into politics, particularly when R.E.M. began and they were touring in Europe during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. “We had to, in a way, politicize ourselves and educate ourselves about who we are to the rest of the world and who we are to ourselves.”
Willner, a producer and Saturday Night Live staffer who died of complications due to Covid-19 last spring, was a mutual friend of Stipe and Meyers. “You can’t fathom that type of loss until it’s happened dramatically and unexpectedly,” Stipe said, breaking down. “The last thing we did together is a tribute to his best friend, Lou Reed. That will be released probably very soon, most certainly as a tribute to his genius.”
Stipe also wrote a powerful op-ed on The Guardian, urging his hometown of Athens, Georgia to take action on Covid-19 precautions — specifically the University of Georgia and Governor Brian Kemp. He called for the same measures other cities have taken, including limiting bars and restaurants to outdoor seating and holding football games without fans.
“Few understand the thrill of being in a crowd more than I do,” he wrote. “From R.E.M.’s modest start at the 40 Watt Club in Athens to the triumph of the main stage at Glastonbury, I have spent most evenings of my adult life in the company of thousands, or tens of thousands, reveling in a shared celebration of life. 2020 is the time, however, that we must find a different and more intimate source of warmth and revelry, rather than assembled masses.”
“The Georgia I was born in and know and love is full of beautiful, soulful people, from the city streets of Athens to the neighboring counties, and beyond to the piedmont and coastal towns,” he wrote. “Historically we have given much — from James Brown to the B-52’s, Jessye Norman to Childish Gambino, Martin Luther King Jr to Stacey Abrams, their home and legacy and my base deserve a stronger level of support than this state and its key institutions have provided thus far.”