On October 1, 2017, a terrible event took place on the Las Vegas Strip. A gunman opened fire on a country music concert that was taking place there, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more. Currently, it is the worst mass shooting ever carried out by a single person in the USA. And as you can imagine, it had a terrible effect on the musicians performing at the concert. Singer Jason Aldean was one of them, and he took to social media with his thoughts.
Jason Aldean, like every other person at the Vegas concert, never expected in a million years that something so terrible could happen to him. He led a fairly ordinary life by celebrity standards. Before becoming a country singer, he drove a truck for a soft drinks company. By the time he reached the height of his stardom he was a multi-millionaire, but he also always seemed down-to-earth.
There was only ever one major controversy that ever surrounded him: his divorce from first wife Jessica Ussery. In 2012, Aldean was caught in a bar with American Idol contestant Brittany Kerr, getting far closer to her than he ought to have been. But it turned out to be more than a one-off. In 2013, Aldean divorced Ussery, and in 2015 he married Kerr.
However, that wasn’t enough to put any major dent in Aldean’s reputation. His relatability was what made him a star of his genre. Rolling Stone magazine summed up his appeal in a 2016 interview: “He is not perfect. Rather, he is everyman, the mirror image of his fans, striving for a better life but stumbling to get there.”
And such was Aldean’s popularity as a musician – in fact, he’s sold more digital records than any other male country singer – that, come 2017, he was asked to top the bill at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. The festival had been running every year since 2014, and thousands of people attended each time. In 2017, 22,000 people came to the event.
And just as Jason Aldean was delivering his headline performance, the shooting began. It was actually coming from the 32nd floor of the adjacent Mandalay Bay Hotel, but the concert-goers weren’t to know that. At first, some of them thought that the noises were fireworks. But instead, it was one of several high-capacity rifles, aimed at the crowd by 64-year-old Stephen Paddock.
Paddock’s motive for firing at the crowd, killing so many, is still unknown. It may well never be revealed, because as the police neared his location he apparently shot himself in the head and died. When police searched his hotel room, they found 23 guns, hidden cameras to keep track of approaching people, and a handwritten note outlining the calculations needed for Paddock to effectively target the fleeing people.
The effect this incident had on the city of Las Vegas, and the entire country of America, was incalculable. Vigils were held, and tributes made to the victims. The call for better gun control rang out loudly across the internet. “We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again,” former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wrote.
Some of the people who had been performing at the festival took to social media to reassure their fans that they were alright. Jason Aldean was one of those. “Tonight has been beyond horrific. I still don’t know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that me and my crew are safe. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight,” he wrote.
On October 3, as America was still dealing with the terrible aftermath of the shooting, Aldean released another statement on social media. “Over the last 24 hrs I have gone through lots of emotions. Fear, Anger, Heartache, Compassion and many others. I truly don’t understand why a person would want to take the life of another.”
“Something has changed in this country and in this world lately that is scary to see,” he continued. “This world is becoming the kind of place I am afraid to raise my children in. At the end of the day we aren’t Democrats or Republicans, Whites or Blacks, Men or Women. We are all humans and we are all Americans and its time to start acting like it and stand together as ONE!”
“That is the only way we will ever get this Country to be better than it has ever been, but we have a long way to go and we have to start now,” he finished, before speaking of the pain he felt for the victims and their loved ones. “Just know u all are in my heart and my prayers as we all go through this together. Time to come together and stop the hate!”
The reaction to Aldean’s statement was positive and largely heartfelt. A few people commented to say that their own loved ones had been killed at the concert, and that they were glad of the words of comfort. But the debate about gun control still raged in the comments. “I appreciate your words. But it wasn’t hate that did this. It was lax gun laws that allowed for modification of legal semi-automatic weapons,” someone commented.
Unfortunately, there will most likely be a long way to go before the gun control debate reaches an end. CNN reported the day after the shooting that although both Democrats and Republicans are in favor of several gun control measures, still no significant change has taken place. As it stands at the moment, three of America’s deadliest mass shootings have taken place within the last five years.
Aldean’s fellow Route 91 performer, Caleb Keeter, actually issued a statement saying he “cannot express how wrong [he] was,” about gun control. “We need gun control RIGHT. NOW,” he wrote on Twitter. “My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn’t realize it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it.”
The country star has not yet said anything publicly about the gun control debate, or what side of it he is on. He does however part-own, along with several other people including Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty, a hunting company named Buck Commander. It appears that for him, like many rural Americans, guns are a big part of his life.
A week after the shooting, Aldean found himself slammed in the press over a decision he’d made. He planned to sing a tribute song on Saturday Night Live. However, on the same night, a UFC event attended by survivors of the shooting was taking place in Vegas, and the star was asked to come and perform. But Aldean turned down the latter in favor of the former.
This decision drew ire from some people, including UFC boss Dana White. He accused the singer of lying about not attending the UFC event, according to TMZ Sports. “His image was more important than coming back to Vegas and playing for the people who are his fans and who got shot watching him play,” he reportedly said. “F*** you, Jason Aldean. Stay out of Vegas.”
Aldean’s performance on SNL, however, was a big success. He covered the song I Won’t Back Down by Tom Petty, who had also died that week of a cardiac arrest. He delivered a speech similar to the message he’d posted on social media. “This week, we witnessed one of the worst tragedies in American history. Like everyone, I’m struggling to understand what happened that night and how to pick up the pieces and start to heal.”
“But you can be sure that we’re going to walk through these tough times together, every step of the way. Because when America is at its best, our bond and our spirit — it’s unbreakable.” Of course, it is everyone’s dearest hope that before too long, no-one will have to make such speeches again, be it on SNL or social media or anywhere.