The Day the Music Died
By: Nizar Ahmed
Sat, Feb. 3, 2018
CAIRO – 3 February 2018: On February 3, 1959, three musicians, 22 year old rising star Buddy Holly, 17 year old heartthrob Richie Valens, and J.P "The Big Bopper" Richardson took a private plane from Clear Lake, Iowa to the next stop on their tour, .
Unfortunately, none of the three passengers or their pilot, Roger Peterson, made it to their destination in Fargo, North Dakota; the plane crashed not long after take-off, killing everyone on-board. The incident had come to be known as "The Day the Music Died."
Holly, born on September 7, 1936 in Texas, was responsible for hits such as "Peggy Sue". He would prove to be a massive influence on early Rock 'n' Roll, even opening for Elvis Presley in 1955. He had a bright, gleaming future ahead of him prior to his unfortunate fate, and could have been destined for even greater things.
His unfortunate partners were Valens, who, though not even 18 yet, had already managed to win hearts all over the nation with "Donna" and "La Bamba"; and "The Big Bopper", a Texas DJ and songwriter responsible for "Chantilly Lace". The three had come together to form the "Winter Dance Party" tour, a 24-day event spanning 24 towns, which Holly saw as his way out of bankruptcy following his break with his former band, "The Crickets", in November of the previous year.
They had been on the eleventh night of their tour when Holly, fed up with the poor state of his tour bus and how tired they are all, thought up an idea to hire a private plane to get them to their next stop as quickly as possible. That way, they could all get some much needed rest after finishing their tour early. He hired a young pilot, Peterson, who had just finished up a 17 hour ride but couldn't turn down a chance to fly a star such as Holly.
Originally, Holly's bass player, Waylon Jennings, was supposed to be part of the flight, but he gave up his seat to The Big Bopper due to a cold. Meanwhile, Holly's guitarist, Tommy Allsup, flipped a coin with Valens to decide who would get on board. Valens won the bet, and the three musicians had sealed their fate.
Their pilot, Peterson, had never been alerted on the fact that there was a blizzard oin their flight path. The plane crashed minutes after take-off in a cornfield in Iowa, with the bodies of the three singers thrown out of the plane into the field while Peterson remained in the wreckage. They laid exposed to the elements for 10 hours, covered by the raging snow.
When their deaths were reported on the news, Holly's pregnant wife reportedly had such a nervous breakdown that she lost their baby, while Holly's mother collapsed into a screaming mess. Holly was buried on February 7, with thousands of mourners attending the service at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Texas.
The tragedy would go down in history as one of the saddest events in the history of Rock 'n' Roll. The three musicians were first honored in a song by Eddie Cochran titled "Three Stars", recorded but a day after their deaths. Later, Don McLean with his 1972 song "American Pie", dubbed the tragedy as "The Day the Music Died", defining it as an event that changed America forever.
In a strange turn of events, Holly's song "It Doesn’t Matter Anymore" became a huge success just a month after his death. Valens and Holly both got films made about their lives, 1987's "La Bamba" and 1978's "The Buddy Holly Story" respectively, while Richardson left behind a wife, daughter and son born just after the crash, who grew up to honor his father by becoming Big Bopper Jr., performing until his death in 2013.