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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Fifty years ago today...

...was "The Day the Music Died".

It was on this date in 1959, just after 1 a.m., that the small plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, along with their pilot Roger Peterson, crashed into a field near Clear Lake, Iowa.

There were no survivors.


Anonymous said...

This was the moment that the innocence ended.

Unknown said...

Truth is...

1) Buddy Holly was no longer riding the crest of the wave of teen popularity in 1958. It was an era of "...here today, gone tomorrow..." and producer Norman Petty was already re-imaging Holly's sound to appeal to adult audiences, pushing ballads and string arrangements into his repartoire. You can hear it in the song "It Doesn't Matter Anymore." The 1960's would have seen Buddy Holly become a class Vegas act, but probably little more of a success than Wayne Newton or Bobby Darrin.

2) Richie Valens, nee Ricardo Valenzuela, was a two-hit wonder in the whitebread world that rock 'n roll had become in 1958. With English as his second language, it took extensive coaching for him to perform an acceptable rendition of "Donna" that did not portray him as too ethnic for the general public. Needing a second "hit" to match the song, and not having the time or the patience to coach another anglo hit out of the temperamental artist, the record company took a gamble that enough Harry Belafonte and Desi Arnaz fans would relate to a rocked-up Hispanic folk song to get that hit...and it worked. It's likely that by the 70's Valens would have evolved into "B-Circuit" type of talent that Rick Nelson and Dion became.

3) The Big Bopper - nee J. P. Richardson, probably had no future as a rock 'n roll star, and likely less future as a disc jockey. Fired from two Texas stations of "over-indulgence", his life was the precursor of what the next generation would term "...sex, drugs and rock 'n roll." In 1958, the personality cult of the individual disc jockey was yielding to the team concept of the "good guys" and continuous music. Bopper would not have survived the 1960's well.

4) It took a plane crash to propel these three "stars" to a greatness that none of their careers would have allowed them in life. Even that greatness didn't happen overnight...it was nearly a forgotten piece of historical minutiae until the double whammy of Don McLean's song "American Pie" made it an event in the minds of an oldies-sensitive generation, and the movie "American Graffiti" reinforced it when a character in the movie said "...rock 'n roll hasn't been the same since Buddy Holly died."

Conclusion: It's amazing how easy it is to manipulate our memories, and by doing so manipulate our "shared history". Popular media has turned the deaths of three less-than-perfect performers into a turning point in popular culture. We do good to remember their music, but deserving of media icon status they were not.

...end of sermon