— by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
It’s been a crazy month. Between processing heaps of terrible news while balancing motherhood and life, I haven’t had much time to mull over a particularly disturbing incident that has rattled me since Newtown: the shooting death of up-and-coming Voice singer Christina Grimmie at age 22.
Obviously, I felt numb and stunned after I heard the news of her June 10, 2016, passing. I’d gotten to “know” her as a contestant on The Voice, which I watch pretty regularly. She had a perfect voice, and a sunny, bubbly disposition that made her an easy favorite.
Unfortunately, I barely had time to dwell on the sadness over her passing when another, bigger Orlando-area tragedy struck the next night, which ended with the death of 49 innocent club-goers.
The Pulse tragedy overshadowed Grimmie’s death, understandably because of its magnitude, but it didn’t lessen its impact. Now that a couple of weeks have passed, and the reality of what happened to Grimmie has “settled” in, I’ve had some time to think about why her death affected me so much.
As a female musician who’s fronted several bands, I am familiar with fan obsession (albeit to a lesser degree). I’ve never been famous — my biggest accomplishments in the performance/songwriter realm never amounted to a fraction of what Grimmie amassed — but I’ve had a handful of fans (mostly men) who’ve made me uncomfortable at one time or another. Usually, these creepy dudes would leave me alone after I made it clear that their e-mails/Myspace messages/proposals of love were unrequited.
Maybe I’m one of the lucky ones who never “made it.” The more famous a musician gets, the more likely it becomes that he or she will encounter some truly psychologically “off” fans and/or obsessive types. While my heart goes out to those individuals whose dispositions stray far from “normal” (any of us could have been born with, or developed, a stigmatizing mental illness), I feel more sorry for those who achieve any degree of fame at the expense of safety.
Former Voice winner Craig Wayne Boyd encapsulated my feelings — and those of several musicians — when he told Taste of Country, “Any artist will tell you, the meet and greets, and the personal connection to the fans, that’s a lot of why we do what we do … for that time and intimate moment to be violated like it was in this instance is devastating.”
The Grimmie tragedy has impacted bigger-name acts as well. Singer Meghan Trainor freaked out so much that she told Page Six she planned to beef up security. “I go out all the time without security, and you just never know,” she told the publication. “You have no idea who’s out there obsessed with you to the point that they would do something like that.”
Beyond being a musician, I’m also a mom in an era of instant fame and YouTube sensations. It’s easier than ever for crazed fans from all over the world to encounter and become obsessed with an up-and-coming entertainer. Today, my oldest child is closer in age to 22-year-old Grimmie than I am. It’s a sobering reminder that what happened to Grimmie could happen to my son(s), or any of my friends’ children should they decide to pursue music and become reasonably successful.
— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a writer, guitar teacher, mom, and the founder of Rockmommy.