When Newsweek magazine included Grand Rapids, Mich., on a list of 10 cities with the most hopeless futures, the residents didn't get mad.
They got musical.
Members of virtually every sector of the community -- from the mayor to bus drivers, from joggers to high school cheerleaders, from businessmen to sidewalk chalk artists -- and representatives of nearly every aspect of life in the city came together to record a group lip-sync to Don McLean's "American Pie."
While designed to show off the city, the video became an overnight sensation because of its amazing format: It was done in a 9-minute, 49-second continuous shot from a camera that weaves its way through thousands of volunteers. There are people waving from apartment building balconies, swing dancers, kayakers and, of course -- if you know anything about the song -- a pickup truck and a marching band.
There are so many people in the video that even the folks who made it don't know the exact number. But they do know this: It attracted 1.3 million YouTube views the first weekend it was posted, and that was Memorial Day weekend, when, one assumes, a lot of people were away from their computers. Movie critic Roger Ebert called it "the greatest music video ever made."
But the most surprising reaction came from Newsweek. After it saw the video -- which makes the city look quite charming -- and got wind of the reaction to it, the magazine started backpedaling, claiming that it never said anything nasty about Grand Rapids. Rather, the magazine insisted, it was quoting a historic preservation group based in Washington, D.C.
Decide for yourself about Grand Rapids by watching the video at www.startribune.com/a467.