Today (September 7th) marks what would have been Buddy Holly's 77th birthday. Holly, who would die tragically on February 3rd, 1959, at the age of 22 in plane crash with Ritchie Valens and J.P. "Big Bopper" Richardson, was arguably rock n' roll's first singer-songwriter. Holly's death while on tour with the 1959 Winter Dance Party remains one of music's greatest losses.
Holly's hit singles and album tracks, both with and without his backing band the Crickets, such as "That'll Be The Day," "Peggy Sue," "Rave On," "Maybe Baby," "Oh Boy!," "Think It Over," "Well . . . Alright," "Rave On," "Everyday," "True Love Ways," "Heart Beat," and "It Doesn't Mater Anymore," inspired a generation of acts including Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, the Searchers, the Who, the Hollies, who named themselves in tribute to him, and most importantly, the Beatles.
Dion DiMucci, who along with the Belmonts was fourth on the bill of the 1959 Winter Dance Party, told us that despite Holly's humble Texas upbringing, he seemed wise beyond his years: "I spent two weeks with him. And he was very mature for his age. I mean, I was 19 -- he was 22. He was a very decisive guy. I don't know if it was his upbringing, but I couldn't make decisions that fast. I mean. . . Well, he rented a plane! At 22 years-old, 'Okay, listen' -- Y'know he was recruiting people -- 'Let's fly out and we'll just split it.' But you think of a 22-year-old chartering a plane, that was his kind of personality."
Holly's widow, Maria Elena, who miscarried their child shortly after his death, recalls their time living in New York City as being an eye-opener for him as he explored the Greenwich Village folk scene and jammed most mornings with musicians at Washington Square Park, which was practically right outside his apartment building the Brevoort: "He really liked the excitement, and at that time that's where -- as they say, where the action was. New York at that time was for musicians. On top of that, that's where I'm from. That's where the Brevoort is on Fifth Avenue, close to Washington Square Park. And that was something that Buddy really enjoyed, because that's where he saw that he could start a new career."
She remembers Buddy performing for free, almost daily, with local musicians at the Park: "Right in the fountain -- y'know, they'd have the benches there in the morning. We'd walk to Washington Square Park, and that's where a lot of musicians congregated. Buddy would sit with a guitar and start playing, and then all of a sudden you see all these people gravitating towards him. They'd say, 'Are you Buddy Holly -- 'That'll Be The Day'?' And then. . . little by little, we did that every day."
Released in 2011 in celebration of his 75th birthday are two star-studded Buddy Holly tribute albums: The MPL-endorsed Rave On: Buddy Holly and the Peter Asher-produced set, Listen To Me: Buddy Holly. The two albums feature such heavyweights as McCartney, Ringo Starr, Brian Wilson, Stevie Nicks, Jeff Lynne, Graham Nash, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Nick Lowe, and Lou Reed paying homage to Buddy.
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