Neil Young Says He's 'Not Ready' to Perform at Farm Aid, Doesn't Think It's 'Safe' amid COVID

The “Heart of Gold” singer will not perform at the annual benefit concert for American family farmers, which he co-founded in 1985 with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp

Neil Young Opening Night Reception For "Special Deluxe" Art Exhibition
Photo: Angela Weiss/Getty Images

Neil Young is prioritizing his health — even if that means extending his hiatus from live performances.

The legendary Canadian-American singer-songwriter, 76, has announced he will not be performing in this year's Farm Aid — the annual benefit concert for American family farmers, which he co-founded in 1985 with folk legend Willie Nelson and Indiana rockstar John Mellencamp — due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This year's Farm Aid will be held in Raleigh, N.C., on Sept. 24. Though the festival's website encourages — but does not require — attendees to wear masks, audience members do not have to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter.

Neil Young, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews. Paul Natkin Photo Reserve Inc

On July 14, the "Heart of Gold" singer posted a letter he received from a fan to his website with his response underneath.

"I heard you are playing at Farm Aid this year, and I'm hoping I'll be able to go!" wrote Tyler, a 21-year-old from San Francisco.

"I will not be at Farm Aid this year," Young responded. "I am not ready for that yet. I don't think it is safe in the pandemic."

Young ended his note sentimentally, writing, "I miss it very much."

The same day, he replied to another letter on his website from a fan wondering if he'd begin touring again soon. "Not ready to tour. COVID is a real danger," wrote Young. "Long Covid? No thanks. Expose my son to big crowds. No."

Though Young performed in the virtual Farm Aid concert in 2020, he did not perform at last year's in-person festival, also citing COVID-related concerns.

This year, Farm Aid lives on without one of its three original founders. The concert features a lineup including founders Nelson and Mellencamp, board members Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds and Margo Price, as well as Chris Stapleton, Sheryl Crow and others.

This is not the first time Young has voiced his seriousness about staying safe in the pandemic. While speaking to Howard Stern for a 2021 interview, the musician claimed he wouldn't perform live again until the pandemic is fully over. "I don't care if I'm the only one who doesn't do it," he told the radio host.

In January, the Grammy winner made headlines for having his music removed from Spotify after calling out the platform for housing Joe Rogan's podcast, which infamously spread disinformation about the COVID pandemic and vaccine.

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