The Day the Music Died

The day was February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P.“The Big Bopper” Richardson were taking a plane to their next tour stop.   They were the lucky ones, or so they thought; their tour buses were cramped and cold, the chance to fly was one they all wanted. Buddy Holly chartered the plane, The Big Bopper had the flu and asked for the second seat, while Ritchie Valens tossed a coin and won the coveted third and last seat. They got on the plane thankful that they didn’t have to get on the dreaded buses; not long after takeoff the pilot lost control of the plane because of inclement weather and crashed killing Holly, Valens, The Big Bopper, and the pilot on impact. Before their tragic death these men all left their mark on music, specifically rock and roll.

Buddy Holly was a pioneer of rock and roll and one of the most influential people in music. One of the many things he is known for is setting the standard setup for a rock band, which consisted of two guitars, a bass, and drums. His first and biggest hit “That’ll Be the Day” reached number 1 in 1957 “Best Sellers in Stores” chart and number 2 on the R&B singles chart. The song has been covered by numerous bands such as The Quarrymen (better known as The Beatles), The Everly Brothers, Modest Mouse among many others.

Like Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens was a pioneer of rock and roll (and a forefather of Chicano Rock). He is most known for his hit song “La Bamba;” originally a Mexican folk song; Valens remade the song with a rock beat and rhythm that transformed the song into a rock and roll hit in 1958. This song has also been covered by various artists most famously by Los Lobos whose cover was used in the movie La Bamba, a film about Valens’ life. [It frequently airs on VH1; and if you’re like me, you’ve seen it a thousand times.]

            The third musician killed on this tragic day was J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. The Big Bopper was a disc jockey, singer, songwriter, and early rock and roll star. He wrote hits for country stars such as George Jones and Johnny Peterson. His biggest hit was “Chantilly Lace” which reached number 6 on the pop charts in 1958.

            The Day the Music Died is a line in Don McLean’s hit song “American Pie” (1971). Many have attributed the song to describing the day we lost three of the biggest rock and roll stars.  It is only speculated that McLean’s hit song “American Pie” is about the death of Buddy Holly, but the lyrics can be interpreted to describe the aftermath of the crash. The lyrics, “singing this’ll be the day that I die” can be a reference to Buddy Holly’s hit song “That’ll be the day.” Since the songs release in 1971, February 3, 1959 has been dubbed The Day the Music Died, because of the talent that was lost that day.

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