Mourning Fans

In their constant frenzy to report on the really important issues, the media have been giving a lot of coverage these last couple of days to fans going to the internet to mourn she of the blond hair, huge smile, large breasts and empty head who died unexpectedly instantly transforming herself into a phenomenon more important than the continued violence in Iraq or build up to I don’t even want to know what with Iran. It seems like a good moment to reflect for a second on the value that online mourning can have.

My own experience with this came last May when Grant McClennan of the legendary Australian band the Go-Betweens died of a heart attack at age 48. The Go-Betweens had been one of my favorite bands for many years, and Grant left behind a huge catalogue of beautiful and strange songs. The suddenness of his death was heartbreaking. I never met him but it left me reeling for days and still breaks my heart to contemplate. The (official) Go-Betweens Message Board immediately shut down all other threads and opened a tribute thread. When they shut that thread down 3 weeks later, there were over 1500 messages, including several from other well known or influential musicians. I read through those and sobbed, but I also felt better to know that he had affected so many others at least as powerfully, and often more powerfully, and to feel the sense of communion with all the others in pain at his passing even though we were geographically so far apart.

Grant was only half of the Go-Betweens, and much as the fans mourned and felt so very sad for his family, we also felt beyond horrible for Robert Forster, the other songwriter and Grant’s almost life-long musical partner. There was also consolation in knowing that the online messages we contributed might offer solace to Robert, and indeed they did. After a few days he wrote:

Today I went to the website and read some of the magnificent tributes that have flown in for Grant. People for some days have been telling me of the beautiful things written there. And today I felt well enough and strong enough to go in and read. I thank you all. In time I shall read every one of them. I see familiar names scattered from our past. The vast majority I don’t know. All of you Grant and I have met through our music. Your words and thoughts I find very, very moving. I sense the love and understanding for Grant and his music, and I take the support you send to me to my heart.

It chokes me up to read that, and that kind of says it all about the power of the internet to connect artists and fans.

Comments (1) to “Mourning Fans”

  1. This subject has been my mine of late. A colleague and I are collecting information now to figure out what would be good research topics in this area.

    Of course, the Go-Betweens were an awesome band.