I did not set out to write this article originally. This subject is extremely personal to me, and I am still incredibly shaken by the attacks in Paris. This may not be the most profound or flowery piece I’ve written, but it is by far the most personal.
I was nine years old when my parents took me to my first rock concert.
I will never forget that night. KISS was having one of their reunion tours, and it wasn’t simply music, it was an experience. That concert was the beginning of everything for me. Gene Simmons spit “blood” and flew from the sky. I smelled pot for the first time. There was a strobe light at one point – I had never seen a strobe light before. I thought they were moving in slow motion. It was surreal. In that moment, and for every moment to follow, I was a rock and roll fan. One short year later I was taken to my second concert: The Rolling Stones’ Bridges to Babylon tour. I had never seen someone move so much for so long without getting tired. I know now what was happening. My parents were strategically introducing me to the most influential music ever created while I still had the opportunity to experience it in person, and it was pure magic.
Music has shaped my family, bringing us together in every aspect of life. Music is how we celebrate, and music is how we mourn. My baby brother, who isn’t much of a baby anymore, once sported an orange mullet in order to channel his inner David Bowie. While his choice in hairstyle has improved, his love of music has not wavered. He is the guitarist of a rock band, influenced heavily by our early exposure to very, very good music.
In 1971 Don McLean released “American Pie,” a reference to the 1959 deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. McLean maintained what he called a “dignified silence” regarding the lyrics to the song, but the declaration of “the day the music died” has held different meaning for different people throughout the course of the song’s life. “Do you believe in rock and roll? Can music save your mortal soul?” Many in the world believe it can, to some extent. Music has been the great unifier, restricted by no language, no belief, no race, and no war. Until now.
At least 129 people were killed, and over 350 others injured, during a series of coordinated attacks in Paris on Friday night. The attacks occurred at multiple “soft targets” across the city, with shots fired at restaurants and multiple bombings near the Stade de France during an international soccer match between France and Germany. The most fatal of the six attacks, however, took place at Le Bataclan, a concert venue where American rock band Eagles of Death Metal was performing. While the band escaped, a member of their crew, Nick Alexander, was among the victims. The people inside were taken hostage, and took to social media to beg for help. The gunmen walked around the interior of the building and, with no apparent rhyme or reason, methodically murdered people one by one witnesses have reported. At least 89 people died in the Le Bataclan attack Friday night.
In a statement released by Islamic State following the attacks, the group stated that Le Bataclan was targeted “for exhibitions, where hundreds of pagans gathered for a concert of prostitution and vice,” further saying that the concert-goers were “idolaters gathered together in a party of perversity.”
The attack on Paris was an attack on normal people doing normal things, an attack on everyday life, with music being a large part of that. This was an attempt to halt, to silence, and to destroy the most unifying force that the world knows. It could have been my little brother on that stage. It could have been my family in that crowd. It could have been my obituary being written. It could have been yours. The terminology used to identify the victims at Le Bataclan as idolaters gathered in a party of perversity, prostitution, and vice, gives insight into the minds of those carrying out such attacks. But these people have underestimated the resolve of human beings, and music as a whole.
The day after the attacks, an unnamed man pulled a mobile grand piano by bicycle to Le Bataclan. He silently played John Lennon’s “Imagine” to the hundreds of people mourning outside of the venue. He played without speaking a word, sitting in the center of a circle of onlookers. For two minutes, all was silent. After finishing with Lennon’s infamous peace anthem, the man rose from his seat and wiped his face. It was a brief yet profound statement, a message of sorts. We will respond to your attack with more of what we love, and more of what you hate. You failed.
Irish rock band U2 was three miles away when the attack occurred. In a statement, the band wrote: “We watched in disbelief and shock at the unfolding events in Paris and our hearts go out to all the victims and their families across the city tonight. We are devastated at the loss of life at the Eagles of Death Metal concert and our thoughts and prayers are with the band and their fans. And we hope and pray that all of our fans in Paris are safe.”
“Our first thoughts at this point are with the Eagles of Death Metal fans. If you think about it, the majority of victims last night are music fans,” U2’s Bono told Irish DJ Dave Fanning in a radio interview Saturday. “This is the first direct hit on music that we’ve had in this so-called War on Terror or whatever it’s called. It’s very upsetting. These are our people. This could be me at a show. You at a show, in that venue. It’s a very recognizable situation for you and for me and the coldblooded aspect of this slaughter is deeply disturbing and that’s what I can’t get out of my head.”
Music has always united people, and that is not going to stop now. Bono was right. This was an attack on music. But music fights back. Don McLean was wrong: The music never died, and it never will.
Liz Finnegan is a soulless ginger with no political leanings. Pun enthusiast. Self-proclaimed “World’s Okayest Person.” Retro gaming contributor for The Escapist.
Read more EveryJoe coverage of the Paris attacks.
Click through the gallery below to see images from the aftermath of the Paris attacks.