60 Years Ago: Tragic Plane Crash Kills Rock And Roll’s Best And Brightest
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The Day The Music Died
February 3rd, 1959 effectively ended a blissful era of sock hops, poodle skirts and Coke floats when the Beechcraft Bonanza carrying rock idols Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa, killing all 3 men and their pilot instantly.
The collective shock caused when news of the crash broke reverberated around the world, with people everywhere mourning a loss of innocence and what singer-songwriter Don McLean would later call, “The Day The Music Died”. It wasn’t the fact that it was a plane crash that claimed the lives of these men that left us so shaken – it was the fact that at 17, 22, and 28, they still had lifetime’s worth of living left to do.
Ritchie Valens was a pioneer of Chicano rock, becoming the first Hispanic rockstar by age 17 with smash hits like “Donna,” “La Bamba,” and “Come On Let’s Go”; Buddy Holly was racking up Billboard hits left and right, looking forward to a career free of The Crickets and to the birth of his first child with wife María Elena. At 28, J.P. Richardson was successfully juggling life as a husband, soon to be father of two, and his status as one of rock’s fastest rising stars with the chart topping “Chantilly Lace”.
Note: Holly’s young wife, Maria Elena, suffered a miscarriage upon hearing of her husband’s death announced on the news. After the crash, a policy was later adopted not to disclose victims’ names until after their families are informed.
It’s been 60 years since the day the music died and still, there’s a part of rock fans everywhere that stops and silently mourns every time strains of “Donna” are heard, or even when we see a pair of eyeglasses similar to those worn by a certain brown eyed boy from Lubbock. For Buddy, Ritchie, and The Big Bopper, life was all too short; the victims of a cruel twist of fate.
For us, their legacy lives on nearly 6 decades after the day the music died and maybe, just maybe, that’s enough to keep the flame burning for just a few more generations.