February 3, 1959, The day the music died

February 3, 1959, The day the music died
February 3, 1959, The day the music died

On February 3, 1959, 65 years ago in 2024, 3 rock and rollers from the very beginning, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and JP The Big Bopper Richardson, died in a plane crash. The death of this trio is sung by Don McLean in American Pie. Their death is seen as a symbolic farewell to the old, familiar America. McLean is considered the namesake of that fateful day, known by its title The day the music diedThe day music died.

Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly is seen as a pioneer of rock and roll. That’ll Be the Day, Oh boy! and Peggy Sue are big hits that he makes with his Crickets and that can still be heard on the radio to this day. He has only just graduated from high school when he is the opening act for Elvis Presley. When Holly appears on television, many young people watch the chord changes of his left hand. They are not difficult to imitate and Buddy Holly inspires young people to play the guitar who do not feel like endless guitar lessons and the associated theory.

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He also popularizes the stage setup with drums, bass and 2 guitars. Buddy Holly is also a great source of inspiration for, among others, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan. The British band The Hollies is even said to have named their band after the American rock and roller. His influence on early rock and roll in particular is great.

In 1958, Holly asks the receptionist at Peermusic in New York, Maria Elena Santiago, out on a date. After a few hours, he asked her to marry him and they married on August 15, 1958 in Lubbock, Texas, Buddy Holly’s hometown. The wedding is being kept quiet so as not to upset female fans. She does go on her husband’s tours. The couple decides to live in New York. Because The Crickets do not want to leave Texas, the band decides to split up. Holly forms a new band with Waylon Jennings on bass, Tommy Allsup on guitar and Carl Bunch on drums.

Meanwhile, problems arise with manager Norman Petty, who does not have his accounts in order. Holly fired him in December 1958. Due to money problems he was forced to go on tour again, The winter dance party tour. It will be his last. Elena is not coming along because she is pregnant with their first child.

JP The Big Bopper Richardson

JP The Big Bopper Richardson is a musician and disc jockey. If he students The Bopa new dance, he decides to do for himself The Big Bopper to mention. He writes a number of hits, such as Running Bear and White Lightning. But his most famous song is undoubtedly Chantilly Lace. It starts with “Hello Baby!” like he’s talking to his girlfriend on the phone about a date. That cry has often been imitated and appears, for example, on the song Good Enough by Van Halen. Richardson has had a lot of success with Chanitilly Lace and decides to go on tour, The winter dance party.

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Ritchie Valens

Ritchie Valens is the stage name of Richard Steven Valenzuela. He plays guitar and is a singer. He lives in and around Los Angeles The Little Richard of San Fernando named. Valens only released 3 singles during his lifetime, of which Donnaabout his high school sweetheart Donna Ludwig, and La Bamba, are the best-known songs. He throws on a rock and roll sauce La Bamba, a Mexican folk song, which becomes a big hit for him. Valens is seen as a pioneer of Chicago rock and Latin rock. A film about his life was released in 1987, entitled La Bamba. He’s also going on tour, that one The winter dance party tour is called. His professional career lasted barely 8 months. He was only 17 years old when he boarded the fateful flight on February 3, 1959.

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Buddy Holly charters the plane

The tour kicks off January 23 in Milwaukee. 24 performances are planned in a short time. The performance in Clear Lake, Iowa is scheduled for February 2, the 11th in a row. Traveling a lot causes problems. They drive from here to here, in an area in the United States where it is freezing. Sometimes they have to travel 650 kilometers to the next gig and sit in a stone cold bus for 12 hours. The bus in which they are transported breaks down regularly. The organizers don’t seem to mind. The artists mention the tour The tour from hell.

Richardson develops flu symptoms. Carl Bunch even has to go to the hospital after his feet are frozen. After the performance in Iowa, the entire company has to board the bus again for a journey of approximately 590 kilometers to Moorhead, Minnesota. Holly has become frustrated with the problems with the bus. He decides to charter a plane for him and his band. 21-year-old pilot Roger Peterson flies them to the next destination. There are seats for only 4 people on the plane. Because Richardson is ill, Jennings indicates his place The Big Bopper. Allsup and Valens decide to toss a coin to determine who gets the last spot. “Heads,” Valens shouts and he wins the toss. Holly then jokingly tells Jennings, “I hope you freeze on the bus.” Jennings responds, “And I hope your plane crashes.” This comment, meant as a joke, has stuck with Waylon Jennings all his life.

Dion DiMucci of Dion and the Belmonts, who are also playing on this tour, is also said to be a candidate for a seat on the plane. However, the place costs as much as a month’s rent, which is $36, which his parents pay for their home in New York. He thinks it’s too expensive and that’s why he doesn’t get on the plane.

Snowstorm and crash

Peterson, Holly, Valens and Richardson board the plane at approximately 12:30 am on February 3, 1959. The pilot has had a long day at work, but because he has 3 rock and roll heroes on board, he still wants to fly them to Fargo, North Dakota. That place is near Moorhead. A snowstorm is on its way, but Peterson is unaware of it. After takeoff, the plane only stays in the air for a few minutes. No one knows exactly what happened. It is likely that Peterson flew directly into the snowstorm, lost visual contact and flew down instead of up. The plane plows into a nearby corn field at a speed of about 170 miles per hour. It lands upside down, throwing the passengers out of the plane. All occupants die. The bodies are not discovered until after 10 o’clock.

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Elena Holly suffers a miscarriage

In Texas, a neighbor warns Holly’s mother to turn on the radio. When she hears the news of her son’s death, she cries out and collapses. Pregnant Elena Holly suffers a miscarriage a day after her husband’s death, reportedly due to ‘psychological trauma’. She learns about his death through television. In the months after the crash, authorities adopted a new policy on releasing victims’ names. This will only take place from the moment after the family has been informed. Holly and Richardson are buried in Texas, Valens in California and Peterson in Iowa.

Elena Holly does not attend her husband’s funeral and has never visited his grave. She feels guilty about his death. Later she will say: “I wasn’t feeling well, I was pregnant and I wanted Buddy to stay with me. But that tour was on the agenda. It was the only time I wasn’t with him. And I feel guilty because I know that if I had been there, Buddy would never have gotten on that plane.”

The tour will continue as usual after that. Waylon Jennings takes the place of Buddy Holly and sings his songs. The then 18-year-old Frankie Avalon is flown in to finish the rest of the performances.

Don McLean – American Pie

Immediately after their deaths, Eddie Cochran recorded the song Three Stars on, about the 3 rock and roll pioneers. But the best-known song about this fateful accident was written by the American singer and songwriter Don McLean. In American Pie he has a paper route as a boy. This way he finds out that Holly, Valens and Richardson have died in an accident. McLean is a big fan of Buddy Holly. His father died when he was 15 and he devoted himself to music.

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For some, the song is about the death of The American Dream. McLean talks about the trio’s last concert where young people dance and fall in love. After their deaths, America is changing rapidly. The Vietnam War is disastrous for the country. President John F. Kennedy is assassinated, as are his brother Robert and Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King. Racial unrest breaks out. The music is also no longer what it once was. He uses the death of the trio as a metaphor for the old America that is no more.

Source: Theguardian.com, Biography.com, Smoothradio.com, Washingtonpost.com, Time.com, Wikipedia. Photos: Shutterstock, ANP)

The article is in Dutch

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