Shame of the Grammys

A bizarre silence about the Rhode Island nightclub fire.

Three days before this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony, 97 people died, and 187 people were injured (43 critically), in the deadliest nightclub fire this country has seen in a quarter-century. One of those presumed dead is Ty Longley, a guitarist with Great White, which was playing when the place (“The Station”) caught fire. Great White is a heavy-metal band that was fairly popular a dozen years ago. Its cover of “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” from the double-platinum album, …Twice Shy, was nominated for a Grammy in 1990. Although the fire was at a small club (capacity: 300) in little West Warwick, R.I. (population: 29,268), it’s a huge national story.


Chatterbox recites these familiar facts in order to drive home how astonishing it is that during the entire three-hour Grammy Awards show, not one representative of the music industry requested a moment of silence for, offered remembrance of, or even mentioned the victims of the Rhode Island fire. This appalling fact was noted in the Feb. 24 Toronto Sun by Joe Warmington and, independently, by Walt Mossberg, author of the Wall Street Journal’s “Personal Technology” column. Devoted readers of this column will remember that Mossberg is an aficionado of popular music. He shared his exasperation with Chatterbox (who didn’t watch the Grammys) in an e-mail, and Chatterbox verified his complaint with others who watched the whole show. The fire victims, Mossberg pointed out, “are the industry’s hardest-core music fans, and the band that was performing had been nominated for a Grammy. … How could all those artists and industry execs be so callous and self-absorbed?” Good question. “And people wonder why the music industry is out of touch with music fans.”

Incidentally, the Grammy Web site makes no mention of the Rhode Island disaster, either, even in the section of its news page dedicated to “Industry News.” Apparently neither Great White, nor The Station, nor its 97 dead customers, has anything to do with the music industry.