an hour or so after midnight on 3 february 1959, a chartered beech bonanza carrying musicians buddy holly, richie valens, and j.p. richardson (the big bopper), crashed in an iowa field shortly after takeoff from mason city. the 21 year old pilot and all three passengers were killed.
buddy holly has been described as the single most creative force in early rock and roll, influencing the beatles, the rolling stones and bob dylan, among many others. he was only 22 at the time of his death, and yet his songwriting was so prolific that new albums and singles were released for years after his passing.
(to hear the aviation detail of that ill-fated flight, listen to an NPR interview with AOPA's Air Safety Foundation director, bruce landsberg.)
in 1971, don mclean's "american pie", a tribute to holly and the evolution of pop music following his death, became the longest song ever to hit #1 in popularity. the lyrics were filled with arcane musical references, a bit mysterious, and the melody and rhythm were infectious. for those who've wondered, here is a website which interprets "american pie", clarifying the images for the rest of us to understand.
fifty years later, the lyrics ring true:
"a long, long time ago, i can still remember how that music used to make me smile..."