Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Day the Music Died-50 years on

February 3rd, 1959 has been popularly known as "The Day the Music Died". The plane that crashed outside of Clear Lake, Iowa carried budding star Ritchie Valens, "The Big Bopper" J.P. Richardson, and the legendary Buddy Holly. Although the other two might have their merits, it's Buddy Holly's music that has had a huge impact on me. So often rock 'n roll gets bogged down in the "woe is me, she doesn't love me" sentiment, and forgets joy. Buddy Holly was all about joy, even if he could bust out a ballad with the best of them. The exuberance of his songs is so infectious, I don't know how anyone could resist. I discovered his music when I was about 20 (the age he was when he became famous) when I found a used greatest hits CD of his being sold for $3.99. I thought "Why not check it out? He's probably a legend for a reason." Of course, I knew "That'll Be the Day" and "Peggy Sue" his two most famous songs, but I was not prepared for the staggering quality of music that I found. I was giddy as I pursued more from him, and I was never disappointed.

After attending an Elvis Presley concert as a teenager, Holly devoted his life to making rock music. Although he came from a humble beginning in Lubbock, Texas, he changed the perception of the rock artist, being one of the first to primarily write his own material (something which his disciples The Beatles would eventually make expected of a rock artist), as well as often being his own lead guitarist. He is often cited as the popularizer of the Fender Stratocaster. When he toured throughout the late 50's, many young men saw his guitar and went out and bought their own in imitation. His artistic self-reliance let him branch out and try many different approaches and styles. Holly was really only beginning to realize his potential when he died. As a singer, guitarist, songwriter, and burgeoning producer (where he had hoped to do much of his work as he got older and had a family), he constantly pushed himself. If you take a look at the growth from his earliest records, to the stuff he was putting out at the end of his career, it hints at a talent that would've continued to flourish and a curiosity that would've never ceased to try new things. To think that people still know his name and can feel his impact 50 years on speaks to how important Buddy Holly was. The fact that he died at just 22 is simply baffling, he had been popularly making music for less than 3 years. I simply wanted to mark the 50th anniversary of the death one of my heroes.

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