February made me shiver. Sixty-two years ago, the hopes of Americans fell from the sky. It was February 3, 1959. Rock and Roll was hot. The kids were invincible, as they always seem to be. It was a booming time. This would become the infamous Day the Music Died. Young Americans and the music scene lost three stars: Ritchie Valens (17), “The Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson (28) and Buddy Holly (22) as well as their pilot, Roger Peterson (21). This was a grueling tour for the musicians. They called it “the tour from Hell.” The plans and locations seemed haphazardly thrown together for the Winter Dance Party. These were also not the intended passengers for the flight. It was supposed to be just Buddy Holly’s group, including Waylon Jennings, Holly’s bassist, who graciously gave up his seat to The Big Bopper because he had the flu. Buddy Holly gave Jennings a hard time for opting to go by bus because he wanted to travel with him. The other switch came from Ritchie Valen’s request, despite him having a fear of flying, to switch with Holly’s guitarist, Tommy Allsup, for a seat on the plane because he also had flu symptoms. Allsup gave up his seat after a coin toss. Before they departed, most accounts record, Buddy Holly teasing Jennings by saying, “I hope your ol’ bus freezes up.” (This had actually happened previously in the tour resulting in hospitalization for frostbite for someone on the tour and resulting in hiring the plane for some of the group and the smaller bus for the rest.) In retort, Jennings smirked back, “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes.” The side effects of this comment followed him everyday and he took to heart the power of words. The plane did crash, killing all four aboard.
It shook the time. Ritchie Valens was just a baby. The Big Bopper was reflective of a spirit of American fun. Buddy Holly was young, vibrant and exploding on the scene. It is not a loss of innocence but a loss of belief in innocence.
Don McLean is a soulful artist. He explains that his art is not joy but an expression and release of his pain and torment. He also claims to have enjoyed Madonna’s cover of his most famous song.