History of The Day The Music Died


On February 3, 1959 a plane crash occurred in Iowa during a snow storm shortly after 1 am which killed three young rock and roll singers who would go down in history: Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.

Their story would be captured, “long, long time ago” in the 8.5 minute hit song “American Pie” by Don McLean, released twelve years later in 1971.

Many attempts have been made to decrypt the lyrics of this abstract song, and though never explicitly stated — except that the song is dedicated to Buddy Holly — these musicians appear to represent “the three men I admire most, the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost… the day the music died.”

“February made me shiver… bad news on the door step” is the date of the crash. These performers were planning a 24-city “Winter City Party Tour.” The bus was so cold that Buddy Holly decided to charter a plane to the next venue in Fargo, N.D.

  • Richard Valenzuela, aka Richie Valens currently had a hit with La Bamba.
  • Buddy Holly had a number of hits, including That’ll Be The Day and Peggy Sue. His song Peggy Sue Got Married was later turned into a hit movie by Francis Ford Coppola, starring his nephew Nicolas Cage (Coppola).
  • “The Big Bopper”, mentioned by Nicolas Cage in the same movie, was not the name of a hamburger, but the singer of the hit song Chantilly Lace.

Oh, and the name of the plane? Was it, as has been often said: “American Pie”?

No, that’s an urban legend. The plane’s only designation was what was on the wing registration: N3794N.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

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