Buddy Holly Remembered on the Day the Music Died

Buddy Holly

It’s February 3, the day the music died. I wasn’t around during the days of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, but I do know of their songs. I’ve seen the movie and a few of the others inspired by today’s commemorated tragic tale, but the impact of the fallen artists reaches so much further than that. On their way to stardom, Holly, Valens, Richardson and the pilot died in a fatal plane crash on this day, back in 1959.

Beyond the movies there were songs, including American Pie by Don McLean. The folk singer wrote the song in honor of the immortalized singers, topping charts and contributing largely to our beloved Americana. Holly’s band, called The Crickets, was a driving force behind The Beatles in namesake and fame.

Only 22 when he died, Holly’s life became a snapshot of the modern music artist. His combining of blues and rock acted as a unifying factor pushing an emerging music genre, helping to launch other music greats such as Elvis.

Valens, a forefather of the Chicago Rock movement, had an even shorter music career than Holly, lasting only 8 months. “La Bamba,” Valens’ most recognized song, also encouraged cultural overlap with his music; the Spanish-speaking rock and roll movement was pioneered by Valens.

As a disc jockey, singer and song writer Richardson also had his place of influence in the music world. Connecting artists to the people, Richardson was known for his big voice and on-air entertainment. Breaking live broadcast records and appealing to the culture-shifting college crowd of “Boppers”, Richardson is also credited with coining the term “music video.”

When Richardson joined Holly and Valens for a Winter Music Tour, the thought of a deadly plane ride was likely the last thing on any of their minds. Yet the tragedy of three powerful and influential figures in the music industry made a lasting shock on the world.

While many of the younger generations may not know of today’s importance, the immortalizing of these important music artists continues with the sharing capacity of the Internet. Videos of Holly grace YouTube, demonstrating the artist’s geeky glasses. Those glasses, by the way, have made several comebacks throughout the years, offering consistent flashbacks to the era of Holly’s fame.

Blogs, wikis and social networks help us to remember The Day the Music Died, retelling the story of Holly, Valens and Richardson. The association of digital content to our music these days offers the history behind every song and every artist, forever linking these industry figures to the beneficiaries of their influence.

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  1. Joyce Conroy says

    Kristen, this is a fabulous article. I will mention your article on my radio program this weekend. Bless you for honoring the memory of Buddy Holly. Many of the terrestrial radio stations no longer play his music, but I believe like Sonny Curtis that everytime we play rock and roll, Buddy’s charismatic presence is felt again. Bless you.

  2. Peter Campbell says

    I remember the day so well. To quote Buddy’s friend, Sonny Curtis, “The levy ain’t dry and the music didn’t die, Buddy Holly lives every time we play rock ‘n roll!”

  3. says

    My husband John was a backup singer on the Buddy Holly and the Crickets 1957 album, “The Chirping Crickets”. I went to high school with Buddy. It was a sad day for us when we received the news that he had been killed. We went to Clear Lake, Iowa in February 2009 for the 50th anniversary of his death.

    • Phil Butler says

      Guys, Thanks for commenting on the Buddy story, and thanks Kristen for reminding us all what an extraordinary talent he was. I vaguely remember him from when I was a child. My sibling on the other hand, enjoyed his music and a performance of two. Great post, and we should always take the time to remember, it is how we judge now.



  4. Pam Howes says

    Thank you for the article. Feb the 3rd 1959 is a date that is imprinted in the mind of every rock’n’roll fan worldwide. One can only wonder what would have happened if that plane had safely reached it’s destination. What a loss. Remembered always.

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