I was four years old when Buddy Holly died, sixty years ago today. As the press will repeat at length, he had chartered a small plane to take him from a improptu show in Clear Lake, Iowa to Minnesota for the next day’s show.
Holly was not the pilot but had learned to fly himself and had also taken up motorcycling. He seemed to embody the sense of immortality that seems to come with being young, though he was farsighted enough to plan a recording studio to make a living when his recording career wound down, as he expected. It seems that he wondered if his music would last.
The weather that night was poor and the pilot was not certified for the conditions. The plane crashed shortly after takeoff, but was not located until the next morning.
There are various stories as to how Richie Valens and J.P. Richardson joined Holly on the ill-fated flight. One involved a coin flip, while another has it that when Waylon Jennings, a then Crickets member, was left out, he told Holly he hoped the plane would crash. Whatever the truth, the new genre of Rock and Roll and its young fans suffered a great loss that night.
Don McLean’s anthem, American Pie, centered on Holly’s death, describing it as “the day the music died.” The irony though is that Holly’s music never died and, in fact, is still fresh and alive after a lifetime. Indeed, it has preserved his memory for a generation and more. Perhaps Rock and Roll will never die.