The Day the Music Died is observed on February 3 every year. It’s the anniversary of the fatal plane crash that killed three important figures in rock and roll.
Musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. Richardson died along with the pilot Roger Peterson in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. In the thick of winter, the poor flight conditions led to the Peterson losing control of the plane, causing it to crash and claim the lives of all four people on board.
The day was immortalized as The Day the Music Died by musician Don McLean, who sang about the accident in his song ‘American Pie.’
History of The Day the Music Died
The Day the Music Died is observed on the anniversary of the day three of the best upcoming American rock and roll musicians were killed in a plane crash.
One of them was Buddy Holly, a singer-songwriter who wrote many songs during his short career and is credited with defining the rock and roll lineup of two guitars, bass, and drums. His music had a huge influence on musicians such as Bob Dylan and The Beatles.
Rock and roll pioneers, Valens, and Richardson, also known as ‘The Bopper’ were on tour in winter when they realized that they were sick and tired of the poor tour bus conditions. Long trips on the tour bus would give the performers frostbite and the flu, making it impossible for them to perform.
At Clear Lake, Holly finally decided against traveling any further on the tour bus and decided to charter a plane to the next location. Richardson was ill, so asked Waylon Jennings, a fellow band member, for his seat on the plane, to which he agreed. Valens had also asked Tommy Allsup, another band member, to fly in his stead and they agreed to toss a coin to decide. Valens won.
McLean named the day of the crash The Day the Music Died in his song ‘American Pie’ which was an enormous hit. Besides commemorating the day, the song title has also become symbolic of the shift in cultural attitudes, and the death of the optimism of the 1950s.
The Day the Music Died timeline
Musicians like Holly, Valens, and Richardson begin to fulfill their roles as world-class music performers.
On February 3, the plane chartered by Holly crashes because of poor weather conditions, killing the pilot and all three musicians onboard the flight.
The song is released as part of his album of the same name.
Starting January 15, American Pie is number one on the charts for four weeks straight in the country.
The Day the Music Died FAQs
Who first sang ‘the day the music died?’
Singer-songwriter McLean wrote and sang ‘American Pie’ in which the day of the plane crash was first referred to as ‘the day the music died.’
Why is it called The Day the Music Died?
With the deaths of Holly, Valens, and Richardson, the early era of rock and roll came to an end.
Who escaped the crash?
Band members Jennings and Allsup were supposed to be on the plane but gave up their seats for Valens and Richardson.
How to Observe The Day the Music Died
Listen to ‘American Pie’
The song immortalized the moment in time as The Day the Music Died. Listening to the classic hit is a great way to honor the victims of the crash.
Read up on the musicians
All three musicians who died in the crash were up-and-coming musicians. They were the perfect combination of singers, songwriters, guitarists, and disc jockeys who transformed the country’s music landscape.
Head for a memorial concert
Look out for gigs and concerts in your area that honor the memory of the musicians who died in the plane crash. If there aren’t any, why not host a karaoke night where you sing to the band’s most popular tunes.
5 Sad Facts About The Day The Music Died
Buddy Holly’s wife was pregnant
Holly went on tour because he wanted to save up money to move to New York with his pregnant wife, Maria Holly.
The 1959 tour was badly planned
The buses were refurbished school buses, not meant for comfort over long-distance driving, and the musicians had no one to assist with their equipment.
Holly learned about it on T.V.
The shock of the news of Holly’s death affected her wellbeing so much that she suffered a miscarriage.
The pilot wasn’t qualified
While Peterson had written his exams, he hadn’t yet been qualified to fly in the kind of weather conditions that were present on that fateful day.
The lyrics are taught in colleges
The song by McLean was so popular because it carried a national meaning, and it has been described as the most successful song of the 20th century.
Why The Day the Music Died is Important
It honors the fallen musicians
Holly, Valens, and Richardson were all incredible musicians who died just as their careers were about to take off. It is worth reflecting on the influence that they had on music.
It’s a way to process the loss
The sense of loss and grief that the day symbolizes is what McLean describes in American pie. The day gives us an opportunity to work through those feelings.
Music is a powerful influence
The Day the Music Died is an important moment in music history because it is a shared experience
The Day the Music Died dates