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The Margin: ‘The Last of Us’ leads Spotify streams of Linda Ronstadt’s ‘Long Long Time’ to spike almost 5,000%

Linda Ronstadt won't profit from her 1970 single getting new life on Spotify and TikTok, unfortunately, but she says that 'I still love the song' Read More...

Love will abide — and so does a ballad about unrequited love and longing when it’s given the perfect needle drop on one of the hottest shows of the season. 

A recent episode of HBO’s “The Last of Us,” an adaption of the hit Sony SONY, -0.71% PlayStation game following the survivors of a fungus-fueled zombie apocalypse, has been scoring rave reviews from viewers and critics

Minor spoilers follow: The third episode took a pause from the hordes of infected prowling the planet to focus on the decades-long love story between two side characters: Bill (played by “Parks & Recreation’s” Nick Offerman) and Frank (played by “White Lotus” Season 1 star Murray Bartlett.) And Linda Ronstadt’s 1970 single “Long Long Time,” which also doubled as the episode’s title, was used a couple of times throughout their bittersweet dystopian romance. 

Spotify SPOT, -1.14% tweeted the morning after the episode aired that between 11 p.m. ET and midnight on that Sunday, streams of “Long Long Time” spiked 4,900% compared to the week before. “Oh, so all our hearts were breaking last night…” tweeted @SpotifyNews. 

“Long Long Time” is also getting new life on TikTok, where viewers have used the tune as the backdrop to weepy reaction videos or in tributes to Bill and Frank. 

Alas, Ronstadt won’t be profiting from her single’s recent surge in popularity, Billboard reporter, because she sold her recorded music assets in March 2021 — including royalty streams from her master recordings and ownership of some masters — to Irving Azoff‘s Iconic Artist Group.

But she told Billboard that she still loves the song, and she’s happy that songwriter Gary White will still benefit from the song’s sudden bout of publicity. “I still love the song and I’m very glad that Gary will get a windfall,” she told Billboard.

As for how a 1970s single got such a starring role, “The Last Of Us” co-creator and executive producer Craig Mazin told Variety that he texted a friend — Sirius XM on Broadway host Seth Rudetsky — that he was looking for a song that described “certain things about longing and aching and endlessly unrequited love.” And his friend’s recommendation, “Long Long Time,” hit all the right notes. 

If buzz around a decades-old single sounds familiar, 1980s singer-songwriter Kate Bush was the subject of a similar streaming phenomenon last summer after the Netflix NFLX, -0.27% hit “Stranger Things” used her 1985 single “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)” at a climactic point in its fourth season. The 37-year-old song reached the No. 1 spot on Apple’s AAPL, +2.44% iTunes days after the season premiered.

HBO reported last Tuesday that “The Last of Us” has continued to grow its audience week over week, drawing 6.4 million viewers on Sunday night, which was up an additional 12% from last week’s historic jump in viewership, and up 37% from the series premiere. The Warner Bros. Discovery-owned WBD, -3.14% streaming service has already renewed “The Last of Us” for a second season.

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