It’s been half a century since a plane carrying musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J. P. Richardson (aka “the Big Bopper”), and pilot Roger Peterson crashed in an Iowa cornfield, killing all aboard the flight. February 3, 1959, has become known as “the day the music died”, due in no small part to Don McLean’s 1971 hit “American Pie”, which lamented rock history’s strange twists and turns in the wake of those rock pioneers’ deaths.
The music never really died, though. While many of rock’s originators fell off the charts in the years immediately following that fateful flight, they never fell out of favor with fans who kept the spirit of the original rock'n'roll sound alive. Many of those fans began their own bands, most notably the leading lights of the British Invasion, who acknowledged their idols’ influence (and in the case of the Rolling Stones’ cover of Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, had a hit) and infused rock ‘n’ roll with a new vitality. Film bios of Holly and Valens turned up decades after their passing, and were huge box office sensations. Holly was among the very first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Today’s youngest rock fans might have more to learn about these rock pioneers than those of us who grew up with them on our radios and in our record collections, but their impact on today’s rock – no matter how different it looks and sounds from the original source - can’t be denied. In fact, Buddy Holly showed up on the Juno soundtrack not so long ago, and he sounded right at home alongside Kimya Dawson and Belle and Sebastian. Living proof... the music survives.
The Buddy Holly Story