Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Day The Music Died 50 Years On

Exactly a half century has passed since a small plane crashed in a cornfield in Clear Lake, Iowa killing all aboard including Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson (a.k.a. The Big Bopper.)

Although this event occurred 13½ years before I was born its significance is not lost on me nor on many born after me. In an instant the brightest lights of rock n roll would shine no more. Richardson was 29, Holly was 22 and Valens was 17. They were only getting started. These events were immortalized by Don McLean in his epic song "American Pie (The Day The Music Died)."

I didn't listen to Ritchie Valens so much although I remember the movie La Bamba starring Lou Diamond Philips. When I think the Big Bopper I think his signature "Chantilly Lace" but am not intimately familiar with his other material.

However, when it comes to Buddy Holly well, oh boy, where does one begin? "That'll Be The Day"; "Peggy Sue"; "Rave On"; "Everyday"; "It Won't Matter Anymore";"Oh Boy"; "Maybe Baby", etc. Holly wrote or co-wrote many of these songs with his recording engineer Norman Petty. Holly was a singer/songwriter before there was such a thing. The man could sing, play guitar and win over an all black audience at the Apollo with some help from The Crickets. Then there were the glasses. Here was a guy who looked like a nerd who could play rock n roll like Elvis and quite possibly better. The Beatles and Rolling Stones looked up to Buddy Holly every bit as much as Elvis. Elvis Costello looked a lot more like Buddy Holly than Elvis Presley.

Here's a clip of Buddy Holly and The Crickets performing "Peggy Sue" on The Arthur Murray Party in 1957. Notice how they are introduced as "rock n' roll specialists" by Kathryn Murray. It's odd to see Buddy Holly playing rock n' roll in a New York ballroom but perhaps no more odd than playing rock n' roll in Harlem. It didn't matter where he played because wherever he played his music made a lasting impression. It still does. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg08r2s1fg&NR=1)

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