1959 Feb. 3: The Day the Music Died?
Still a tragedy, say I.
The Winter Dance Tour, alluded to in the article as passing thru several Wisconsin communities, included a concert at Fournier's Ballroom in my hometown of Eau Claire just days before the one in Clear Lake.
My dancing friends will learn where the song Maria Elena (frequently covered, in different rhythms, with multiple choreographies) came from.
Ritchie Valens was really Ricardo Valenzuela. J. P. was really Jiles Perry, and he was a Junior. Apparently nobody ever referred to Buddy as Chuck.
While Don McLean's American Pie is a classic, it didn't come along until 1971. I think Eddie Cochrane's Three Stars (written almost immediately in 1959) did the best job of capturing the sense of loss our generation felt at the time. Here's Johnny Horton's recording of it.
Horton himself met an untimely end on 1960 Nov. 5 when his car was smashed into by a drunken driver, but since it was just him (not a trio of top names), it didn't get as much coverage. Unlike the 3 relative newcomers on the Winter Dance Tour (Holly, 22; Bopper, 28; Valens, 17), Horton had already had a lengthy recording career at the time of his death at age 35. Besides Three Stars, he left us with North to Alaska, The Battle of New Orleans, and Sink the Bismarck, catchy tunes with memorable lyrics.
Yes, that was back in the days when pop music had melody, harmony, rhythm, counterpoint, and intelligible lyrics.
The Midwest has not been kind to pop singers in private planes. Otis Redding’s Beechcraft hit the waters of Lake Monona (not 5 miles from where I type this in Madison, Wisconsin) on 1967 Dec. 10. Wikipedia notes: “(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay was recorded only three days before Redding's death. According to Nashid Munyan, curator of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Redding considered the song unfinished, having whistled the tune of one verse for which he intended to compose lyrics later. The song was released (with the place-holding whistling intact) in January 1968 and became Redding's only number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, and the first posthumous single in U.S. chart history.”