Rock Moment: The Day The Music Died

Repost: Published in 2009, still of interest today.


To this day, people still mourn the musical talent who died in a plane crash in the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 1959.  A small airplane, carrying rock stars Buddy Holly, J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens, crashed only minutes after taking off from Mason City, Iowa, in a snowstorm.

The three had just played the “Winter Dance Party” and were heading to the next stop in Fargo, North Dakota.  Richardson was 28, Valens was 17, and Holly was only 22 years old.   Richardson, from Beaumont, Texas, was already a proven commodity with not only his own hits, but songs buddyhollyhe wrote – “Running Bear” for Johnny Preston and “White Lightning” for George Jones – becoming hits as well.  Valens influenced such later acts as Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys and was the subject of a 1987 hit movie.

But perhaps the greatest loss was Buddy Holly – he was certainly one of the most original musicians ever, and a monumental talent in rock and roll.  In only two short years he had grown powerful enough to control everything he wrote and recorded and at the time of his death he was planning to produce music for other artists as well as his own.  Holly was the iconic rocker, the first to perform as the leader of his own band and the first to employ the now-standard singer/guitarist/bassist/drummer lineup.

If he had lived, perhaps Holly would have faded away or would have deteriorated like Elvis into a paunchy embarrassment playing Vegas casinos.  But I don’t think so.  You see what Buddy Holly could have been when you look at great artists who have survived and thrived over decades – artists with great integrity like Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen.

Even though he had a relatively short musical career, and even though he was only 22 years old at the time of his death, and more than 50 years after his plane nosedived into a snowy Iowa cornfield, Buddy Holly remains one of the most important artists ever in rock and roll.

YouTube: Buddy Holly & the Crickets performing “Peggy Sue” in 1957

MP3: “Rave On” by Buddy Holly

MP3: “Not Fade Away” by Buddy Holly & the Crickets

YouTube: “American Pie” by Don McLean

MP3: “Buddy Holly” by Weezer

YouTube: “Rock Around With Ollie Vee” from The Buddy Holly Story biopic

11 Responses to “Rock Moment: The Day The Music Died”

  1. the video is absolutely fabulous. If it’s even possible to remember what society was like in 1959, Buddy Holly’s swagger is impressive and the drummer looks absolutely punk. Meanwhile,as the almost tribal beat is pounded on the drums, the ‘good little girls’ in the background are frozen, unmoved in their prom dresses, as though any hint of keeping time with toes or hips would end their lives.

  2. 30daysout Says:

    There is no doubt in my mind that, had he lived, Holly would have gone on to be an even bigger star. Some people think he might have been blown off the map by the Beatles, but remember: the Beatles were influenced by Buddy Holly, and if Holly were still active in the early 1960s there might not have been quite the same reception for upstarts from across the Atlantic. It’s all a big game of “What If?” but it’s fun to speculate.

  3. While I am on the what happened to them schtick…Dion has quite a story on his Website.

    I was doing research for thursdays post and saw that Dion turned down a ride on the plane that took the lives of the 3 above mentioned performers. $36 too much to buy a plane ride and decided to stay on the bus instead. Facinating.

    Portal of Groove

  4. Ben:

    Greetings from New Orleans — I enjoyed your recent post about our city.

    I’ve long been a Buddy Holly fan, and really enjoyed your articles. Whenever I wonder what I can accomplish in a day or a week or a year, I think of what Buddy accomplished in such a short time, and it always gets me moving.

    Back in the late 1970’s, I was listening to a college radio station when the DJ played some amazing acoustic home recordings that Buddy Holly made in the months before he died, and I have wondered for years if they would ever be released. They were released this week on a 2-CD set called “Down the Line: The Rarities.” The acoustic recordings, known as “The Apartment Tapes,” are only about half of the second CD, but they are worth the price of the whole thing. I would recommend them to anyone.

  5. r.i.p 2 the fallen many wishes to the familys

  6. I have a question. I entered the Sundance Prize Pack but my comment has been waiting moderation forever. What’s the deal?

  7. 30daysout Says:

    We kept all the comments in moderation because they contained the answer to the trivia question … We put all of the correct entries including yours into a hat and drew out one. Sorry you weren’t the winner, but thanks for reading and thanks for playing.

  8. American Pie sent a shiver down my spine the first time I heard it and it never ceases to have the same impact with each listen.


  9. God bless Ritchie Vallens, otherwise truly known as Richie Valenzuela(his real birth name). He represented for Chicanos all over the U.S. especially those of us who aspire to be musicians as well someday. I idolize him along with the beauty, Selena. Rest in peace to both.*

  10. Great post. I just blogged on this myself. I’m new here. I noticed a link to this blog on mine. This is a fantastic write on Buddy Holly.

  11. Reblogged this on Becoming is Superior to Being and commented:

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