Gone too soon

Posted: Thursday, February 03, 2011 by Travis Cody in

On this day in 1959, a small charter plane crashed shortly after take off from an airfield near Mason City Iowa.  Everyone on board was killed including Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and JP "Big Bopper" Richardson.

Buddy Holly was 22.  Ritchie Valens was 17.  And JP Richardson was 28.

The clip is from the 1978 movie The Buddy Holly Story, starring Gary Busey.  It was the first time I ever saw Mr Busey in a film role and I thought he was brilliant and deserved the Oscar nomination for Best Actor.  All of the actors in the film did their own singing, and Mr Busey actually recorded the soundtrack for the film live. 

This is the end of the film, showing the concert in Clear Lake Iowa the evening of the plane crash.  The Big Bopper is portrayed by Gailard Sartain.  Gilbert Melgar plays Ritchie Valens.

3 February 1959 is often referred to as "The Day the Music Died".  That phrase comes from Don McLean's song American Pie, which was partially inspired by the death of Buddy Holly.

But if you check the list of musicians, singers, and songwriters who credit Buddy Holly as an influence, I think a case can be made that the music lives on.  Among those are Paul McCartney and John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, and Bruce Springsteen.

Certainly Mr Holly's music stands up today as well as it did when he recorded it from 1956-59.  He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.  Ritchie Valens followed in 2001.  JP Richardson is not an inductee, but his presence can be felt in the HOF in various exhibits honoring the trio.

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.
(From the song American Pie, written by Don McLean)


  1. Coco says:

    I can't help but wonder how much impact some of our most revered idols might have had if they had lived their lives in full, instead of being stopped short at an early age. Would it be more? Or less? One of those unanswerable, philosophical questions, I suppose. But a great topic of debate! :)

    Have a wonderful day.

  1. I watched that movie and enjoyed it. Busie's best role perhaps.

  1. While I was a little kid the day the music died, I remember how great the music was.

    I watched the movie in awe of Gary Busie's mad acting skills.

  1. Still such a stunning loss, isn't it?

  1. man what a loss that was.And wvery time we lose good talent to death that is a loss as well.the good thing is that the Music lives one.In those that have been inspired and the fans thenselves."you are never really gone as long as you are remembered."

  1. Akelamalu says:

    I was only 10 years old when Buddy Holly died and can't remember it but I love his music.

  1. JohnH985 says:

    Buddy Holly was such a great talent. He was one of the first to write, sing, arrange and produce himself. If he had lived the music he might have made....

  1. Coco: One of the thoughts I always have is, all they've done is all we're ever going to have.

    Charles: I think you might be right. He's an actor that peaked early, and then let substances take him down.

    Pam: I've always had an appreciation for early rock and roll, thanks to my mom's influence.

    GGG: It is, still.

    Mike: Well said.

    Akelamalu: I didn't come along until 5 years after his death, but it seems I've heard his music all my life.

    John: He was also one of the early experimenters with over-dubbing and other recording effects.

  1. jennifer says:

    I do love the song but I hate what it represents. What a terrible loss.

  1. Jamie says:

    I used a great video from You Tube of The Day The Music Died last year. The person who did it, did an excellent job of fitting pictures to lyrics.

  1. Busey was brilliant in that role. It's kind of sad to see his state now, in comparison.
    Another good movie that touched on that tragedy was "La Bamba."