60 years ago today the music died

Readers of a certain age will undoubtedly recognize the above image as the John Milner character played by Paul LeMat in 1973's sem...


Readers of a certain age will undoubtedly recognize the above image as the John Milner character played by Paul LeMat in 1973's seminal film, American Graffiti. Set in 1962 Modesto, in this scene Milner was bemoaning the day's state of rock and roll.

Specifically, Milner said, "I don't like that surfin' shit. Rock and roll's been going downhill ever since Buddy Holly died."  

While many would argue with Milner's assessment of the state of rock n' roll, particularly since it was made before the Beatles and the mid-60's British Invasion. Nonetheless, Milner cited one of the early tragedies in the genre's history - the premature death of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.

That tragedy happened 60 years ago today in Clear Lake, Iowa. As for the phrase, The Day The Music Died, that came from Don McClean's 1971 song about the death of Holly, American Pie. 

For those unfamiliar with the events leading up to the day the music died, Holly, along with Valens, The Big Bopper, and Dion and The Belmonts were on a wintertime tour dubbed the Winter Dance Party in the Upper Midwest. Faced with cold weather, and even colder touring buses, after their February 2 show in Clear Lake, Holly chartered a plane to take him, along with Valens and Richardson on a flight to Moorhead, Minnesota.

It was on that same tour, on January 31, a young Minnesotan by the name of Bobby Zimmerman had front row seats to the Holly show at the Duluth National Guard Armory in Duluth, Minnesota. That same high school senior in 1959, now known as Bob Dylan, spoke of that concert and the influence Holly had on his style when accepting his Nobel Prize in 2017.

“Something about him seemed permanent and he filled me with conviction,” Dylan said of maiing eye contact with Holly during the performance. “Then out of the blue, the most uncanny thing happened, he looked at me right straight there in the eye and he transmitted something, something I didn’t know what. It gave me the chills.”

After that Iowa show, the flight left Clear Lake and shortly after takeoff it crashed at approximately 12:55 a.m. on February 3, 1959. It was the first significant of many premature deaths of young musicians - some self-inflicted - in the world of rock and roll.

Many baby boomer may have been too young to remember the event - me for example - or were too young if they remembered the sad events, to understand in the moment its significance. But as the Bobby Zimmerman example shows, Holly's influence was profound.

Consider also four young lads from Liverpool who were influenced by the 22-year old horn-rimmed glassed Texan. The Beatles named their group as an homage to Holly's first group, The Crickets, according to many sources, including this interesting story of Holly's influence on many aspects of the four lads. 

So on this Super Bowl Sunday, the 3rd Day of February 2019, if you like rock n' roll and all of its derivative genres, tip a drink to the kid from Lubbock and remember this as the day the music died.

Here is a YouTube playlist of just a few of the many artists who have covered Holly's music - Rave On! 

Dan Gougherty








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