This Day in History 2/3: “The Day the Music Died”

The Neighborhood raises their collective glasses to Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.

To most of us, these names are vaguely familiar, but to earlier generations, their death signalled the end of an era.

On February 5, 1959, Valens, Holly and Richardson–all well-known rock-and-roll stars of the mid-late 1950s–boarded a Beechcraft Bonanza plane near Clear Lake, Iowa following an unscheduled stop on their tour.  Their plane lost contact with the control tower within minutes in a blinding snowstorm, and by 3:30 AM the wreckage of the plane was found.

The news devastated the music world, and signalled the close of the early rock era.  By the late 1950’s, the early rock edge had softened to more commercial acts, and the victims of the crash were considered the last vestiges of the initial energy and demeanor of rock music.  Thus ended the age of Chuck Berry, Little Richard and early Elvis–soon to be followed by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and later, fatter Elvis.

One young person who took the crash to heart was Don McLean.  In 1972, McLean released “American Pie”, his ode to the music and memories of his youth.  It is in this song that he referred to the crash as “The Day the Music Died”.  McLean himself never tried to decipher fully his own cryptic lyrics, but generations of music lovers since have tossed and turned over its meaning. 

Attached is a recording of McLean in 1972 singing his classic tune.  Enjoy.

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