Bye Bye Miss American Pie
Richard Steven Valenzuela was just 17, Charles Hardin Holley was 22, and Jiles Perry “JP” Richardson, Jr. was an old man at 28 when the three of them (together with their 21-year old pilot) died at around 01:30 in the morning on 03 February 1959.
Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper were travelling in a single engine Beechcraft plane following a performance at the famous Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, on February 2. Buddy had chartered the small airplane to take him to Moorhead, Minnesota. It was to be the next stop on the 3-week long Winter Dance Party Tour that he was part of, together with Valens, Big Bopper and Dion & The Belmonts.
The tour had become an ordeal for the performers having to endure long overnight travel in a bus plagued with a faulty heating system in sub-zero temperatures. The bus had also broken down several times between stops already.
In a cruel twist of fate, one of Hollys’ The Crickets band members, Waylon Jennings, had given up his seat on the plane, causing Holly to jokingly tell him, “I hope your ol’ bus freezes up!” Jennings retorted, “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes!” It was a statement that would haunt Jennings for decades.
In 1971, Don McLean released “American Pie” to commemorate Buddy Holly’s death and further accentuate the loss of innocence in America after the Vietnam war. McLean’s song began the reference to the tragedy as “The Day the Music Died”.
A long long time ago
I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while
But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey in Rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die