That’ll Be The Day
50 years ago tonight saw the unscheduled last stop of the Winter Dance Party at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.
It was to be “The Day the Music Died” as Charles Holley, Richard Valenzuela, Jiles P. Richardson, and 21-year old charter pilot Roger Peterson took off from the Mason City Airport en route to Fargo in advance of the next night’s show in Moorhead, Minnesota.
The doomed plane made it no more than 5 miles in a light snowstorm before crashing into a field, taking the lives of the artists better known as Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, & The Big Bopper. Click here for the Civil Aeronautic Board’s original accident report.
Today’s anniversary is an opportunity to review why Buddy Holly still matters today, in an incredibly insightful review of Buddy Holly’s short life and the events leading up to the crash, as written by Spencer Leigh, author of the upcoming book Everyday: Getting Closer to Buddy Holly.
Dave Tianen of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel speculates on the careers that might have been, noting that those careers each had challenges looming at the beginning of 1959.
Two new compilations of Buddy Holly material are being released to commemorate the anniversary.
Despite the lingering issues between Holly’s estate and his previous business partners, the inclusion of previously unreleased material (including home recordings, undubbed originals of hit songs, and alternate takes) ensures that these releases will have interest for any serious music lover.
For a contemporary take on Holly’s greatest hits, Pat Dinizio of The Smithereens has just released a well-received tribute album.
He will also be participating tonight in an official tribute concert titled “50 Winters Later” at the restored Surf Ballroom, capping a full week of commemorative activity in Clear Lake.
If the music and the reading is not enough, there are always the movies. Hollywood has produced two major feature films on the subject.
La Bamba, centered around Ritchie Valens, plays well as a good primer to his career.
As a counter to that, Sir Paul McCartney co-produced a BBC documentary titled The Real Buddy Holly Story, which makes for better viewing as a video biography.
A majority of the time I was writing this post was spent listening to an excellent collection of Buddy Holly’s work from 1993. Go out and get this or the new compilation to appreciate his transcendent impact on music over the 50 years since his passing.
They definitely do not make icons like Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, or The Big Bopper today. If you are a music fan, I hope you can now better appreciate the relevance of this 50th anniversary in a small northern Iowa town.