Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Day the Music Died

...But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died...

February 3, 1959: Don McLean was a thirteen year-old paper boy in New Rochelle, NY, when the headlines in his hands informed him of the tragic end of rock pioneers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. The event would eventually inspire and dominate his most famous composition "American Pie."

This week marks the 50th anniversary of The Day the Music Died. You are probably familiar with the lore surrounding this fateful flight, how Waylon Jennings let an ailing Big Bopper have his seat on the plane, how Tommy Allsup and Richie Valens flipped a coin for the remaining spot, and how Holly (a little annoyed that Jennings was going to stay on the tour bus) joked to Jennings "Well I hope yer ol' bus freezes up!" - to which Waylon quipped back "Well I hope yer damn plane crashes!"

Of course, also noteworthy is the impact these artists had on music. Valens certainly made his mark as the first Chicano (that's old school for 'Mexican-American') to make it big in rock and roll. Did you know that the Big Bopper also composed Johnny Preston's #1 hit single "Running Bear" as well as George Jones' #1 hit "White Lightning?"

And as for Holly? Just ask any rock act of the following two decades. The members of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles will be the first to tell you that there would be no Stones or Beatles (as we know them) if it weren't for Buddy Holly. In fact, Graham Nash named his band The Hollies. Although Rolling Stone magazine only has Holly ranked at #13 on their Top 100 Artists of All Time, it has long been suggested/debated that he would have gone down as the real "king" of rock and roll, had he survived.

Further reading:
  • The January 5, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone has a nice write-up on it (on newsstands now), and the RS website has a couple (different than the mag) of articles as well. After reading them, you will certainly see that the music definitely did not die.
  • The Briefcase is also looking to see if the Pint Pundit will have any selections to play for us this week's warble. He may not be a Holly man, we'll see.
  • And worth mentioning - we guess - would be first, the highly condensed and fictionalized 1978 film The Buddy Holly Story - not so much for its historical or cinematic qualities, but rather for the great Gary Busey, who actually did a decent job with the role. After that, check out the 1985 made-for-television production by Paul McCartney, The Real Buddy Holly Story.