By Dr. Larry Burriss
Feb. 3, 1959, 60 years ago this week, has been described as “The Day the Music Died,” the day rock singer Buddy Holly was killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa.
Although his recording career lasted only a year and a half, Holly has been called “the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll.” Most notably, his influence on the Beatles and the Rolling Stones paved the way for the British invasion, and led to innovative new techniques in lyrics, instrumentation and musical production.
Holly and his band, the Crickets, had played a concert in Clear Lake on February 2, and had just taken off for Fargo, North Dakota, when the plane crashed. Also killed were Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, also known as “The Big Bopper.” Two members of the band that did not make the flight were Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings, who had given up his seat to the Big Bopper, who was suffering from the flu.
And what connections can we find between Holly and other recording stars? Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney watched his television appearances in London, and later credited Holly with being their primary influence, and said their band’s name was chosen partly as homage to Holly’s Crickets.
George Harrison and Keith Richards attended at least one of his concerts, and Bob Dylan was present at the January 31st, 1959, show two nights before Holly’s death.
The most famous tribute is probably Don McLean’s 1971 ballad, “American Pie,” which is laced with dozens of cryptic references to rock-n-roll bands and news events from the days surrounding the crash.
Holly was the first rock ‘n’ roller both talented and strong enough to take artistic control of his music. He wrote his own songs, arranged them, and directed his backup band. He experimented with studio technology, achieving effects with echo, double-tracking and overdubbing on primitive tape recorders. But perhaps best of all, although sadly dying so young, his millions of fans will never be disillusioned.