More Than 50 Years After the Music Died

Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper

It hardly seems possible that it’s been more than half a century since a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza and its occupants departed from an airstrip in the dark of the Iowa night, bound for Minnesota, and flew into history. But that’s exactly what happened on February 3, 1959 when, shortly after 1 am local time, the plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson crashed just after takeoff in Clear Lake, Iowa, killing the three musicians and their pilot instantly. While many beloved musicians have died before and since, this is known as The Day the Music Died.

It’s easy to overlook the impact these musicians had on rock and roll and American society — particularly Holly and Valens — but it is incalculable. Countless musicians to come in the second golden age of rock and roll picked up their first instruments because of these three (not the least of which was the Beatles).

If you happen to be reading this on the anniversary of that fateful night — or any day for that matter — take a moment and remember Buddy, Ritchie, and the Big Bopper.

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