“And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died”
– Don McLean, “American Pie”
Few songs are as well-known, or as well-loved, as Don McLean’s “American Pie,” but few people know that it references one of the greatest tragedies in musical history.
On February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and JP Richardson, who was better known as The Big Bopper, boarded a “small Beechcraft Bonanza” airplane to fly to a concert they were doing together in Minnesota. Having been touring for days on end on an unreliable tour bus, Holly chartered the plane so that they could make it to the concert early.
Sadly, within minutes of taking off, the pilot lost control of the plane and it crashed into a cornfield in Iowa. Because of the terrible weather conditions, the site could not be reached until the next day, when the bodies of the musicians and the pilot were found.
From then on, and forever immortalized in Don McLean’s hit, February 3, 1959 became known as “The Day The Music Died.”
Those three men were some of the most pioneering musicians the world has ever seen. Despite being only 22 years old when he died, Buddy Holly is frequently cited as a major influence on some of the world’s biggest artists: The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen, to name but a few. His name and his contribution to the rock and roll movement still lives on, and even 55 years on, he is still talked about, applauded and celebrated, even by those who had not even been born in 1959.
Today, 55 years on from “The Day The Music Died,” we honour the lives of three incredibly talented young men. Their contribution to music, whilst cut heartbreakingly short, has helped mould the music we know and love today, and we celebrate the fact that, thanks to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and JP Richardson, music lives on.
You can watch a video of Don McLean’s “American Pie” below:
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