Buddy Holly dies

3 February 1959: Number 4 in our series of the 50 key events in the history of rock music

Buddy Holly was very important to Britain; he was almost single-handedly responsible for the sound and look of the Mersey groups. He was a new kind of hero, and he packed an indecent amount into his 22 years. For a start, he didn't look like a pop star, lacking the Hollywood gloss or weirdness of his contemporaries. In spite of this, he was defiant and narcissistic – he wanted the world and, pretty much, he got it. His group, the Crickets, was entirely self-contained; the vim of the three-piece on That'll Be the Day, Oh Boy, Rave On and Maybe Baby encouraged shy, bespectacled UK kids to dream of their own DIY pop. He was starting to move into an orchestrated sound and had already mastered the mixing desk when he died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. That death – he was the first big rock star to die young – came to be a symbol of unfulfilled promise, remembered as "the day the music died" thanks to Don McLean's American Pie. And the widespread grief over the plane wreck in the snow finds its echo every time another generation loses one of its musical heroes.

Contributor

Bob Stanley

The GuardianTramp

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