A post on Facebook by RTE reminds readers that today is the 58th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly, that 3rd February 1959 was the day the music died.
I was eleven when I first heard Don McLean’s song “American Pie,” it was in the charts and being aired on BBC radio during early-1972, a time when there were miners’ strikes, power cuts and a mood of unrest. I didn’t understand it then and not sure that I understand it now. It doesn’t matter anyway, even Don McLean never explained what it all meant. The mood of melancholy captured in the line, “The day the music died” was sufficient in itself to capture the atmosphere. It was a line that suggested that the day was like no other, that the day Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens, along with Roger Peterson, the pilot of their aircraft, died in a crash in Iowa, was a day to be remembered.
In days at boarding school, a classmate would insist on silence when Buddy Holly’s “Rave On” was played. Sixteen years after Buddy Holly’s death, schoolboys, who were born after he had died, still remembered him in hushed tones. The song “Rave On” lasts less than two minutes, but it captures the mood of an age
Where would Buddy Holly have gone from his rock and roll days? Who knows? If he were alive now, he would be eighty, still younger than the recently deceased Leonard Cohen, who continued to record and tour until recent times. Maybe Buddy Holly and the Crickets would be still making records, or recordings, or downloads, or whatever the correct current parlance may be. But if he were alive, would the legend have been possible?
It is odd that creativity so often stems from tragedy, that one of the greatest pop songs ever owed its origins to the pain felt by its writer. Don McLean captured a sense of the coldness of that February day, and left generations to come puzzling about the meaning of a song.
A long, long time ago…
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while.
But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn’t take one more step.
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died . . .