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Outgoing NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins closes controversial tenure with a bizarre bang: A pandemic-themed rendition of 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow'

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Dr. Francis Collins, outgoing National Institutes of Health director, performed a new rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" as he officially vacates his post at the NIH.

Collins in October announced that he would be stepping down from the post after serving for more than 12 years.

What are the details?

Collins performed the song following an interview with Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Prefacing the song, Collins said, "And now, if you’ll indulge me, because it’s been kind of promoted as if it might be a grand finale of a musical sort, I guess I’d like to play us out with a little song. So, if I might, I just need a microphone. Why, there’s a guitar right here. How about that? Ah, yeah, this is a song where the tune will be familiar to you, unless you came from another planet recently.”

He continued, nothing that while the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over, Americans can look ahead to the time when it is and they can joyfully reunite.

“But the words are going to be quite different, because this really is a song for you, a song for all of us who have been going through this pandemic and trying to imagine how it’s going to feel when we’re finally past that," Collins added. "What will that be like? We are gonna get there, and you are going to help us get there. So that’s what this is about.”

The lyrics read:

Somewhere past the pandemic when we’re free
There’s a life I remember full of activity
Somewhere past the pandemic, masks will come off
No more need for a nose swab every time we cough
As we are gathered here today
COVID’s toll has hit and sent us reeling
But partners like the ones right here
Will help to make the pathway clear
To find true healing
Somewhere past the pandemic life will resume
We’ll all complain about the traffic
Forgetting how we hated Zoom
Somewhere past the pandemic we’ll hug our friends
And thank the people and science that brought the pandemic’s end
My dozen years are almost through
But it’s been great to work with you
Let’s end COVID now

Of his penchant for performing music, Collins previously said, “The intensity of seeking answers for a myriad of unsolved human ills can be exhausting, especially amid a global pandemic. At times, we all need a way to unwind, smile, and bond with each other. Music has the ability to help us do that! As an amateur musician, I like taking a familiar song, rewriting the lyrics to meet the occasion, and then sharing that with other researchers, and the broader community. In this case, I wanted to encourage people to feel optimistic about a return to normal life after COVID-19."

He continued, "You can make music too. First, pick a song. Then, make a list of what you want to write about; the themes you want to include. Then, work on the number of syllables for each line, so the meter is just right. It’s fun to come up with unexpected rhymes that will make people smile. Finally, put it all together and share."

Of his departure, Collins said, "It has been an incredible privilege to lead this great agency for more than a decade. I love this agency and its people so deeply that the decision to step down was a difficult one, done in close counsel with my wife, Diane Baker, and my family. I am proud of all we’ve accomplished. I fundamentally believe, however, that no single person should serve in the position too long, and that it’s time to bring in a new scientist to lead the NIH into the future. I’m most grateful and proud of the NIH staff and the scientific community, whose extraordinary commitment to lifesaving research delivers hope to the American people and the world every day.”

Secretary Becerra Thanks Dr. Francis Collins and a Special Song | 12-14-2021 www.youtube.com

Anything else to know?

Collins raised eyebrows in 2011 after penning a lengthy essay in The Washington Post defending gain-of-function research — research that includes genetically modifying an organism in such a way that makes it possible for the organism's biological function to be enhanced.

Later in 2014 and 2019, the NIH approved two gain-of-function research grants for the EcoHealth Alliance to study bat coronaviruses in China.

In May, Collins said that the NIH never funded such research on coronavirus that "would have increased their transmissibility or lethality for humans."

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