Fifty-eight years ago today Buddy Holly (22), Richie Valens (17), and J.P. ‘Big Bopper’ Richardson (29) boarded flight N3794N never to step foot upon the ground again. Their legacies were destined to live on through the iconic music they created. February 3, 1959, at 1 am in the morning the poor weather conditions, late flight, and novice pilot was all factors in their demise. The flight crashed 6 miles away from the runway near Clear Lake, Iowa.
Buddy Holly was destined to do great things. In his short twenty-two years on this earth, he accomplished more than more people three times his age.
In 1955 ‘Buddy Holly and The Crickets’ would open for Elvis Presley. In 1957 they would go on to be the first white band to play at the Apollo Theater in New York. They would also be the inspiration for none other than the iconic band ‘The Beatles.’ By 1959 Buddy Holly had parted ways with ‘The Crickets’ and formed a new band for the 24-town ‘Winter Dance Party Tour’ little did he know he would not get to see most of those cities.
For this tour, Holly had left his pregnant wife, Maria Elena, at home. She had to receive the news of the crash from the media. She was emotionally stricken and had a miscarriage due to the stress.
This sparked a change in public policy. From that point on the families of people who were killed in accidents would be informed before the death was publicly announced.
These musicians were highly valued, and their deaths rattled the music world. There would be many songs and movies that would reference these icons. Eddie Cochran referenced them in his song ‘Three Stars’ in 1959. Waylon Jennings would reference them in ‘A Long Time to GO’ he was particularly affected by the crash because he was touring with them and gave up his seat on the plane to Richardson.
The most famous reference comes from Don McLean’s 1978 song ‘American Pie’ and that is where we get the reference, “The day the music died…” Every year people pay homage to musicians at the memorial that stands at the crash site and an annual concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.
Holly’s widow currently controls his name, image, and trademarks, while Paul McCartney owns the rights to all of his songs. To most, today is the iconic day that ‘The Music Died’ but Maria Elena Holly put it best when she said, “Buddy may not be here, but the music has not died. It is still alive and well.”