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?
More Lac Mégantic disaster songs:
“Lac Mégantic Tribute Song” by John Macciocchi
“Lac-Megantic” by Ruth Hill
“Fear (Lac-Megantic)” by TommyT
“Lac Mégantic” by “Ecole et Boutique Rock Star”
Have you found others?
I noticed your inclusion of Frank Horvat’s ‘art’ song for Lac-Mégantic. What a very interesting area of study. There are a few other pieces that Frank has written that may be of interest to you although they are a little out of the scope of what your are doing as they don’t have any or many words and fall out of the scope of Atlantic or Canada. However, the first two pieces are something Canadians may identify closely with:
The Week After – Written a week after 9/11, Frank Horvat used the writing of this piece as a means to come to grips with what had happened.
Alexis – This piece explores the emotions Frank felt as he watched the police investigation into the disappearance of Toronto toddler, Alexi Currie, play out in the news in 2002.
Other compositions that may be beyond the scope of what you are collecting:
If Not Us, Then Who? – uses clips from a speech from Filipino Climate Change Envoy, Naderev Sano, as he makes a plea to the UN after his country was devastated by a typhoon.
08/14/13 – Cairo – Was written the day after that extremely violent day in Egyptian history.
All the best with your work, I’m sure your collection will provide comfort to many.
Thanks, Lisa, for posting your very informative note! I am fascinated by the variety of events that inspire musicians to compose music, and to hear the ways in which they use music to respond to a tragic event. Even if they aren’t specifically about Atlantic Canadian disasters, it’s great to hear about Frank Horvat’s other pieces.
The Wooden Shoe Ramblers, a folk band connected to the IWW in Minnesota, also has a song about the derailment, which debuted in a legal defense fundraising show for the rail workers being charged for the accident.