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Grand Rapids Fights Back…With Music

Theresa Cameron

“I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore” was a famous line from the 1976 movie Network, but it could also be the theme for the folks in Grand Rapids, MI.

Newsweek’s website published an article declaring Grand Rapids a dying city on January 21, 2011 (along withfellow Michigan cities Flint, Detroit, and 7 others).

The mayor, citizens, and most importantly an artist decided to fight back.

Artist Rob Bliss (a college-aged musician, social media expert, and event planner) and a friend, raised nearly $40,000 to make a LipDub video of DonMcLean’s classic “American Pie” as a way to demonstrate the vibrant community that GrandRapids is. 

The LipDub lasts almost 10 minutes and features more than 3,000 people, including marching bands, parades, weddings, motorcades, bridges on fire, and a helicopter takeoff.

Participants, including Mayor George Heartwell, lip sync their way through the city. There’s a procession of fire trucks and police cars. People wave handkerchiefs from balconies. There’s a pillow fight and a concert; there’s a wedding and a couple gently grinning from the back of a pickup. There are news vans. There are too many guitars to count. And amazingly it’s one continuous shot.

Since its launch right before Memorial Day, the video has racked up over 2.6 million views. It is not only entertaining, but very touching and demonstrates what the power of the arts coupled with the power of a community can do.

After the video went viral and was posted so many times on Newsweek’s Facebook page, the magazine decided to throw in the towel. Here is what they said:

“To the Grand Rapids crowd: First off, we LOVE your YouTube LipDub. We’re big fans, and are inspired by your love of the city you call home. But so you know what was up with the list you’re responding to, we want you to know it was done by a website called — not by Newsweek (it was unfortunately picked up on the Newsweek website as part of a content sharing deal) — and it uses a methodology that our current editorial team doesn’t endorse and wouldn’t have employed. It certainly doesn’t reflect our view of Grand Rapids.”

Either way, I say way to go Grand Rapids!!!


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