The Day the Music Died

February 3rd, 2010

Fifty-one years ago today (on 2/03/1959 at 1:05 am), Big Bopper Richardson, Ritchie Valens, and Buddy Holly died in a plane crash in Iowa (referred to as “the day the music died” in that classic song, American Pie, and dramatized in  VH-1’s “Behind the Music: The Day the Music Died” (here’s the book version), this documentary and movie about Buddy Holly, and this documentary and movie about Ritchie Valens.

Fifty one years ago today

The music world had a very bad day.

A lot of people cried

That day the music died.

I wasn’t alive yet then, but I listened to them later,

And over the years, their fame only got greater.

They’d just done a show in Clear Lake, not originally on the schedule.

The weather outside was cold and cruel.

The bus kept breaking down, so they chartered a plane to go

To their next tour stop (Hector Airport, Fargo).

The plane only sat three, so they started to discuss

Who would take the plane, and who the bus.

The Big Bopper had the flu

And didn’t want to take the bus if he didn’t have to.

He asked Buddy’s bandmate Waylon if he could go ahead,

And Waylon agreed to take the bus instead.

“Well, I hope your ol’ bus freezes up,” Buddy joked when he heard.

“Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes,” Waylon responded, undeterred.

Those words said in jest would later cut like a knife,

And haunt Waylon Jennings for the rest of his life.

Ritchie Valens had never flown before in a small plane,

So he and Tommy Allsup flipped a coin to ascertain.

Valens “won” and so got that last seat,

And Allsup that night by dint of a coin toss, Death did cheat.

The plane took off at 1:00 am,

But five minutes later was seen going down again.

The wreckage was found the next day

In an Iowa corn field five miles away.

The three musicians and the pilot had all died instantly

From gross trauma and multiple injury.

The investigator’s report said it was pilot error and bad weather

That caused three great musicians to die together.

Their monument stands from the crash site not far,

Three steel records and a stainless steel guitar. 

But their their real monument, however,

Is their music, which will live forever.


Here’s Don McLean performing American Pie (it’s an interesting live version, kind of Dylan-esque).

Here’s a CBS report on the 50th anniversary last year, including interviews with Tommy Allsup and Buddy’s widow.

Here’s Buddy Holly and the Crickets performing “That’ll be the Day.”

Here’s the Big Bopper performing “Chantilly Lace.”

Here’s Ritchie Valens singing “La Bamba” (sorry, no video).

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One Response to “The Day the Music Died”

  1. Newsericks » Blog Archive » When the Music Dies Says:

    […] follow-up to The Day the Music Died and Guilty Feelings. Fifty-two years ago today (on 2/03/1959 at 1:05 am), Big Bopper Richardson, […]

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