This blog offers the opportunity to discuss disasters and songs that fall outside the Atlantic Canadian confines of the project represented on this site. The Lac-Mégantic train derailment of July 6, 2013 is such an event.
In the early hours of July 6, a 74-car freight train, which had been parked on a main rail line, began rolling down a decline of its own accord, a “runaway.” The train derailed in the middle of the small town of fewer than 6,000 people, spilling flaming crude oil and causing multiple explosions. Forty-two people died, with an additional five missing people presumed dead. About half of the downtown area was destroyed, including at least 30 buildings. In addition to the loss of life, businesses, and homes, the tragedy has caused significant environmental impacts and reconsideration of regulations governing the rail industry, as well as several lawsuits.
Not surprisingly, the tragedy has inspired songs, instrumental compositions, and benefit concerts. For example, Johnny Maudlin composed and recorded “This Little Café.” An “art” composition for piano, Lac-Mégantic, was composed by Frank Horvat and premiered in August, 2013. Sir Paul McCartney provided free tickets for about 1,000 townspeople to his Quebec City concert two weeks after the tragedy and dedicated his performance of “Let It Be” to them. Montreal rocker and Lac-Mégantic cottager Jonas also paid tribute to the victims and survivors. A major benefit concert was held on August 13 in Montreal.
A somewhat surprising debate arose surrounding the song “À ceux qui restent” (“To those who remain”), composed by Maryo Larouche and sung by Thomas Argouin. The Huffington Post reports that the song was composed in the wake of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, but the date on the youtube video shows January 31, 2013, about six months prior to the derailment. The song could be downloaded from the band Le Gang 2’s website for donations of at least $2, with all proceeds going to the town of Lac-Mégantic. The comments under the Huffington Post report illustrate that some people were suspicious of the motives behind the musical fundraiser, suggesting that the band simply wanted to benefit from the media buzz:
Malgré toute l’emphatie suite à la tragédie du Lac Mégantic, je ne peut m’empêcher de trouver que le [nom du groupe] profites d’un Buzz médiatique pour se faire du “rating” en obligeant de faire un don pour avoir la chanson complète.
Others saw no reason to be critical:
Vous dites avoir de l’emphatie pour les gens du Lac Mégantic, mais vous trouver désolant de devoir payer une chanson, si peu doit-il au cout de 2$, pour venir en aide à tous ces gens qui en ont GRANDEMENT besoin. Je ne crois pas que ce groupe profite de cette tristesse pour ce faire voir, mais faut bien un artiste, un groupe ou un groupe d’artiste pour mettre en ligne une chanson pour leur venir en aide. Votre commentaire est désolant.
If a singer or band sells a song to raise money for disaster relief, should it matter if it’s also a ploy to get media attention?