Editorial: In praise of ... Buddy Holly

Editorial: It was not really, as the song later claimed, the day the music died

It was not really, as the song later claimed, the day the music died. It was not even the end of rock'n'roll, though it was, arguably, the end of the beginning. Yet, for those who can remember the moment, 50 years ago this week, when the news came through that Buddy Holly and three companions had died in a light plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, it remains a day that is hard to forget. Buddy Holly's career was incredibly short. His first hit single, That'll be the Day, was released in May 1957. Twenty months later, aged 22, he was dead, after a string of classics that shaped the music of the Beatles era and still enjoy iconic status. Today the music industry is an archipelago of specialist styles. In Holly's day, there was still something close to a unified tradition. He became a rock singer after seeing Elvis Presley perform in Lubbock, Texas, where Holly was born and is buried. When Holly toured Britain in 1958, the schoolboy Keith Richards was in the audience for one of his London gigs. Two nights before Holly died, the 17-year-old Bob Dylan saw him perform in Duluth, Minnesota. Holly was a trailblazer in his own right, though: one of the first stars to write a lot of his own material - including Peggy Sue, Maybe Baby and Words of Love. When he played in New York he played, unusually for a white rock star, at the Apollo in Harlem. His early death set a grim sort of trend too. But it is hard to think of anyone in rock music who packed such quality, influence and immortality into such a short life.


The GuardianTramp

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