R.I.P. Buddy, Ritchie and J.P.
Your music (and your deaths) helped change the world of music and culture.
"American Pie" was one of the very first songs I ever learned all the words to (I was about 10 or 11 years old). I had it on cassete and I thought I was so fucking cool. Only later to find out at certain school dances that it was mocked as sappy-crap and no one my age even knew what the song was about. (Check the Straight Dope's take on the whole thing.)
Sad. Looking back on my adolescent years, clearly they were the losers and I am just so damn cool. (Note the tone. Please.)
During that same time I completely got into the movie "La Bamba" and cried whenever I saw it.
Then I started listening to the music of Buddy Holly. (After learning how the Beatles got their name, I had to check out the Man and His Crickets.)
It blew me away. That strange way of singing-stuttering phrases. That thick, solid rock guitar sound--and that piano! He sounded like the basis of every rock or pop song I had ever heard or loved before. And I couldn't get over the simple fact that his music, all of his music, had been written and recorded pre-1959. Almost all of his and the Crickets' songs are just two minutes long (some are under!) but in those couple of moments you have rebellious rock, strings-drenched love pleas, or simply the influence of everyone from the Stones to the Pixies.
Still makes me sad to think about their deaths. Holly was just so goddamn ahead of his time and look at what all three of them could have done if would they could have lived longer...
Valens (unbelievably only 17 at the time of the plane crash), was called the "first Chicano rock star"--he helped pave the way for Latinos (as well was other minorities) in the pop culture mainstream. And, when I hear "C'mon Let's Go," by him I still get goosebumps, and it sounds like perfect pop---it's almost timeless. And how about the Link Wray-worthy-opening guitar riff of "La Bamba" or the simple fact that the entire song was in Spanish and it was a massive North American hit?
As for the Big Bopper--a DJ turned rock star (how inspiring is that?), his: "Helloooooo Bay-bhay!!" is one of the most joyous phrases in rock for me. (My dad likes to use this when leaving me voice mail messages. I love it.)
1959: Buddy Holly killed in air crash
Three young rock 'n' roll stars have been killed in a plane crash in the United States.
Buddy Holly, 22, Jiles P Richardson - known as the Big Bopper - 28, and Ritchie Valens, 17, died in a crash shortly after take-off from Clear Lake, Iowa at 0100 local time.
The pilot of the single-engined Beechcraft Bonanza plane was also killed. Early reports from the scene suggest the aircraft spun out of control during a light snowstorm. Only the pilot's body was found inside the wreckage as the performers were thrown clear on impact. Holly hired the plane after heating problems developed on his tour bus.
All three were travelling to Fargo, North Dakota, the next venue in their Winter Dance Party Tour
Holly had set up the gruelling schedule of concerts - covering 24 cities in three weeks - to make money after the break-up of his band, The Crickets, last year.
Born Charles Hardin Holley - changed to Holly after a misspelling on a contract - he had several hit records, including a number one, in the US and UK with That'll be the Day in 1957.
A singer and guitarist, he was inspired by Elvis Presley after seeing him at an early concert in his home town of Lubbock, Texas.
With Presley serving in the Army, some critics expected Holly to take over his crown.
Richard Valenzuela was the first Mexican American to break into mainstream music, after being discovered by record producer Bob Keane, who changed his name to Ritchie Valens.
He had made three albums and achieved a number two chart position in the US with his composition Donna - about his girlfriend - in 1958.
His rock 'n' roll re-working of the traditional Mexican song La Bamba - on the B-side of Donna - has also received acclaim.
The Big Bopper had been a record-breaking radio DJ - with a 122-hour marathon stint - and reached number six in the American charts with his record Chantilly Lace.
check the stiff, but cool side bar:
Buddy Holly and, to a lesser extent, Ritchie Valens became musical legends.
Don McLean immortalised the tragedy with his 1972 hit American Pie.
Holly is often described as the most influential of the early rock 'n' roll musicians, and has been cited as such by John Lennon and Paul McCartney of the Beatles.
His producer Norman Petty released demo tracks Holly recorded before his death.
Various re-workings and compilation albums have appeared in the years since.
Holly was commemorated in the musical Buddy which opened in London in 1986.
Mexican American group Los Lobos achieved a hit with La Bamba when they collaborated on the 1987 film of the same name, a biography of Ritchie Valens.