3rd February 1959
I remember few events of national or international significance from my prep school days. The invasion of Hungary by the Soviet tanks in 1956 is probably the one I remember most clearly. Even without the aid of television, my form mistress managed to convey the horror and significance of what was happening. The only other occasion that really stands out was the day the music died in February 1959.
I wasn't 'into' rock music at the time - few nine year olds were in those days. But we had all heard of Buddy Holly - the man who was revolutionising the musical world and producing such marvellous new sounds. It seemed so wrong that he should die in a plane crash at the age of 22.
Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and "The Big Bopper" died on February 3rd 1959, just after performing in a concert at the now famous Surf Ballroom. They took off from the Mason City airport in the middle of a snowstorm, bound for another concert. The four-seater plane crashed in a cornfield about five miles north of Clear Lake in Iowa killing the pilot and the three musicians. Although three performers died in the plane crash, I don't recall appreciating at the time that Ritchie Valens (aged 21) and J.P. 'The Big Bopper' Richardson (aged 24) were as musically important as I now realise they were. The latter's best known song is probably "Chantilly Lace" whilst Valens had a record in the charts at the time. Also killed was the pilot of the plane, Roger Peterson, aged 21 from Clear Lake.
Buddy Holly - the Legend
Buddy, from Lubbock, Texas, was born Charles Hardin Holley and was just 22 when he died, but he had already recorded dozens of songs (including "That'll Be the Day", "Oh Boy", "Peggy Sue", and "Rave On"); had had hits since 1957 during which year he and the Crickets first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show; ahd pioneered double tracking; and had created the standard rock grouping of drums, bass, rhythm, and lead guitar. Buddy Holly revolutionised the nature of rock'n'roll and introduced a style for which the Beatles were later to become famous - that of performing live in the same way as their recordings came across - without the aid of loads of studio musicians. His style of playing the guitar was unconventional (indeed downright 'wrong' since he only played on the downstrokes instead of both down and up) but brilliant.
Buddy Holly had proved that it was OK to wear spectacles on stage. As a nine-year with glasses (otherwise known as 'Four-eyes') that was of the deepest significance to me. It was Buddy and Chuck Berry who showed the world that you could be a songwriter and perform the music. His lyrics had popular appeal and his style an injection of uniqueness that made him amongst the most memorable and easily recognized of performers.
His legend has grown with time. In 1972 Don McLean described his death as "the day the music died" in his hit "American Pie" and artists from Bob Dylan to Paul McCartney have said their music was influenced by his style.
He is ranked no 13 (an appropriate number) in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
(All photos from the Web and appear to lack copyright information)