On February 3, 1959, a small-plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, killed three American rock and roll musicians: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, as well as the pilot, Roger Peterson. The day was later called The Day the Music Died by Don McLean, in his song “American Pie”.
Might I point out that these three died at the start of their careers. In my opinion, it’s that “what if?” factor that made these guys into the rock-and-roll “legends” that they are. Take the Big Bopper, for instance. Quick — can you name any other song he was known for other than “Chantilly Lace”?
The truth is he was originally a Texas DJ and songwriter (credits include “White Light’ning” as recorded by George Jones, and “Running Bear” which he wrote for Johnny Preston). Had it not been for the plane crash, he might have ended up as just one more name in the “one-hit wonder” file along with such acts as Norman Greenbaum (“Spirit in the Sky”), Zager and Evans (“In the Year 2525″), R.Dean Taylor (“Indiana Wants Me”), or Blue Swede (the ‘oog-a-chuck-a’ version of “Hooked on a Feeling”).
It’s probably better that they went out this way. Look what happens now when even great and legendary performing acts like the Rolling Stones or The Who start reaching the ends of their careers — witness the mercifully brief Super Bowl halftime performance last year; you know dambed good and well they couldn’t have kept that up for a full two-hour show — and wind up making the rounds of the Indian casinos and the State Fair circuit, trying desperately to cling to that last ray of rapidly-fading glory.
Lastly, let us not forget the fourth person killed that night: 21-year-old Roger Peterson, the pilot of the Beechcraft Bonanza. He deserves at least a passing mention. -“BB”-