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The Day the Music Was Born

September 7th, 2011

Everybody talks about Feb 3, 1959, the Day Buddy Holly, along with The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens died in a plane crash soon after takeoff from Mason City, Iowa. We talk about the details of the crash, we talk about the three singers as a group, as if they played together, we talk about the tour they were on, we mention that they were rocks first fatalities and we ponder on the lyrics to Don McLean’s American Pie, the fabulous song that documents the crash as “the day the music died.” But what we really don’t mention is just how good, and how important, Buddy Holly was.

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of his birth, it’s worth considering then short yet remarkable musical legacy Buddy Holly left us.

Holly began recording in 1956 with a single release. His second release was also his biggest, and his only US #1, That’ll Be the Day in May 1957. His next hit, the second biggest of his career hitting #3, before 1957 was out was Peggy Sue. Those two songs are the obvious Buddy Holly songs, and probably the most loved among those who were there, who remember Buddy Holly. But, they are not his best songs.

Nineteen-Fifty-Eight saw his writing mature, saw songs that would influence generations of guitar players, singers and songwriters: Maybe Baby, Think it Over and It’s So Easy as well covers like Rave On and It Doesn’t Matter Anymore. Holly left behind a legacy of great songs, and guitar playing that is being copied still by people who don’t realize it’s Buddy Holly they are copping.

Of the three stars who died on Feb 3, 1959, Buddy Holly is the big one: Ritchie Valens was a kid, a teenager a few songs into his career, an unknown entity. The Big Bopper had a novelty song, Chantilly Lace, and was no doubt destined to be a one hit wonder and go back to disc jockeying. But Holly has had too much influence, his songs still sound interesting, fresh and great.

On the 75th anniversary of his birth, it’s worth considering that if he was still alive, Holly would still be considered a star, very possibly still performing. Buddy Holly, in short, was a serious rock and roll artist, and deserves serious consideration when conversation turns to the greats. He was one of them, one of the first.

On this day, September 7, 1936 one of the greats of rock and roll was born, Buddy Holly.


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