On Saturday, the Twitter account of Jewish Federations of North America TribeFest bundled consolation messages for the families of Jewish rock star Amy Winehouse and the victims of Friday’s murderous shooting and bombing rampage in Oslo, where a far-right extremist killed 92 people, including several young people with what would have been promising political futures.
Several Twitter users noted that Winehouse’s death added her to the "forever twenty-seven club," a list of famous musicians who died at this young age.
Exactly fourteen years and five months before Winehouse’s death, another Jewish singer narrowly avoided membership.
On February 23, 1997, a disturbed Palestinian English teacher opened fire on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Chris Burmeister, 27-year-old Danish guitarist and pianist for up-and-coming band the Bushpilots, was killed. Among the six wounded was Bushpilots lead singer Matthew Gross from Montclair, N.J., who was shot in the head. He was also twenty-seven at the time.
In a write-up of the band after the attack, the NY Daily News offered a clue to Gross’s Jewish identity:
Its most controversial song, "Jew on a Stick," was penned by Gross after he was offended by carvings sold at a Polish market near a former concentration camp that depicted rabbis as troll-like figures.
Whereas the recent Oslo attacks were almost certainly politically motivated, terrorism was ruled out in the Empire State Building shooting. Of course, that fact was of little consolation to Gross, who was in coma for a week but ultimately survived. A year after the attack, Gross spoke at the launch of Pax, an anti-gun organization since re-named the Center to Prevent Youth Violence.
The Los Angeles Times caught up with Gross earlier this year to see how his life had been altered as a result of the shooting. "If you’ve lived, he says, ‘you just have to reconstruct your life.’"
Whatever the circumstances, here’s hoping that those who’ve survived or endured loss of a love one are able to do just that.
[Photo: Amy Winehouse at the Eurockéennes of 2007. Credit: Rama via Wikimedia Commons CC 2.0 France]