Clear Lake, IA

Remembering Rock and roll Pioneer Buddy Holly

Kevin Alexander
Musician Buddy Holly.Photo byAmerican Songwriter

Today is often referred to as "the day the music died."

On February 3rd, 1959, the rock and roll pioneer Buddy Holly died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, along with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. Holly was born Charles Hardin Holley in Lubbock, Texas, in 1936. He began his musical career playing the guitar and singing country music but soon transitioned to rock and roll, becoming one of the pioneers of the "rock and roll" sound.

Songs like "That'll Be the Day" and "Oh Boy" soon became classics and can still be heard some 60+ years later. Despite only releasing three studio albums, two live records, and a handful of singles, Holly was a major influence on other artists, such as The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and The Rolling Stones, and many of his songs have been covered by other artists throughout the years.
The field where Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper (and their pilot) perished in a plane crash is marked appropriately.Photo byTravel Iowa/JeniEats

In addition to his musical career, Holly also dabbled in acting and appeared in several films, including “The Girl Can’t Help It ” and “Go, Man, Go.” Holly has been referenced in numerous films and television shows, including “Back to the Future” and “Happy Days.” Holly's music continues to be celebrated, and his legacy lives on through the many artists and fans whose work he has influenced.

On February 2nd, 1959, Holly, Valens, and the Big Bopper boarded a plane bound for Fargo, North Dakota. The buses they had been using were notoriously unreliable, with the musicians even resorting to burning newspapers in the aisles to stay warm. Holly & co. had finally had enough and chartered a plane for the next leg.

It was a decision that would change the course of not just rock and roll but American history.

Shortly after take-off, the plane crashed in a field, killing all three passengers and the pilot. The crash site is still marked, and their deaths are commemorated yearly.

In 1972, Holly was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1986, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in Holly’s honor, and a memorial to him was dedicated in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas. In 2011, Holly was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2018, the documentary “Buddy Holly: Listen to Me” was released to celebrate the life and legacy of the singer and songwriter.

And, of course, there is music. Several tribute concerts and events have been held in honor of Holly, including the Buddy Holly Tribute Concert in Lubbock, Texas, and the annual Winter Dance Party Tour is held every year and brings contemporary rock and roll artists to Clear Lake.

Do you have a favorite Buddy Holly song or memory? Share it in the comments!

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