When the Music Dies

February 3rd, 2011

A 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, 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.

“Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes.” — Waylon Jennings to bandmate Buddy Holly, in jest, after giving up his seat on their plane. The plane did crash, Buddy Holly was killed, and Jennings was haunted by what he’d said for the rest of his life.

No one thought his words caused what happened that day

Fifty-two years ago today.

But Waylon Jennings never forgot what he’d said

And the feeling that it was due to his words that his friends were dead.

What if the plane had crashed but Buddy Holly had lived?

Wouldn’t Jennings have asked Buddy his fateful words to forgive?

What if Jennings had instead issued a press release

Demanding that suggestions that he caused the crash cease?

Would that response the situation have fit,

Or would it have been inappropriate?

When the music dies and the world is silent,

We must still remember that it can be violent.

Sometimes we don’t mean harm, but we do it anyway,

So please, let’s be more careful about what we say.

Not because words make things happen (though sometimes they do),

But because it’s the right thing to do.


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, including interviews with band member Tommy Allsup and Buddy’s widow.


You may or may not have heard of Waylon Jennings, but you’ve probably heard his voice. He recorded the crossover hit Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys, as well as the theme song (listen to that below) for the 1970s TV show The Dukes of Hazzard, which he also narrated.


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