Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The day the music died


"But, something touched me deep inside, the day the music died.” Don McLean, “American Pie.”

Fifty years ago, at 1 a.m. on a snowy night, a plane crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa. Among the dead were that wild man from Lubbock, Buddy Holly; Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. The oldest (Richardson) was only 28.

Don McLean wrote a song about it a decade later; the crash thereafter became known as “The Day the Music Died.”

I remember hearing McLean’s song as a kid, and asking my dad what it all meant. And it’s always made me wonder what would have happened later. Holly — the most talented of the three — had already proven his genius. Valens, just starting out, showed promise. I don’t know about Richardson.

Rock and roll headed in a dark direction after the crash. Elvis joined the Army. The early R&B stuff gave way to packaged puffballs. It wasn’t until the Beatles landed in ’63 that pop became interesting again, and even then it was all-but-impossible for an American act to make it big, at least for awhile.

Maybe it looks bigger in the rearview mirror. I don’t know. I wasn’t around.

But, for me, The Day the Music Died is a symbolic reminder that we should make each second of our lives count.

And, it harkens back to something I’ve never known, driving the Chevy to the levy, drinking whiskey and rye, knowing she’s in love with him, ‘cause I saw you dancing in the gym.

In an ironic way, the music never died at all.

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