HISTORY OF THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED
On February 3, 1959, a plane crash occurred in Iowa during a snowstorm 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 later be captured as “long, long time ago” in the 8 1/2 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. 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 doorstep” 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. But the plane didn’t make it.
- Richard Valenzuela, aka Richie Valens, currently had a hit with La Bamba.
- Buddy Holly had several 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 that 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 often been 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