Buddy Holly: 50 Years & Timeless

There is no straight path on the internet. While skimming headlines and reading some articles I came upon reporter Bob Greene’s commentary on Peggy Sue, the model for one of rock’s great songs of longing, “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly.

I grew up listening to  Holly, and for several decades played many of his songs in our band– “Rave On,” “Oh Boy,” and, yes, “Peggy Sue.”   His songs are diamonds, casting light and energy with their finely honed simplicity.

The article led me to commentary by Don McClean about the creation of “American Pie,” that huge rambling 1971 masterpiece that used Buddy Holly as a springboard to sum up the history of rock.  (I also found a site explaining the lyrics of this musical magnum opus.)

Buddy Holly was the spark of inspiration for Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones.  All have freely spoken of his profound influence on their music, to say nothing of his influence on country music.

His songs have been covered by rock and country groups in every decade since his death at age 23 in  a plane crash February 2, 1959.

His record label continued to market him as an “active artist.”  The marketing continued through the years with a movie The Buddy Holly Story starring Gary Bussy.  While alive he played such unlikely venues as the Arthur Murray Dance Party.

I don’t think his songs have ever been out of print and the marketing continues today.  In fact, he fits into today’s society probably better than he did in the ’50s with his total geek look (frumpy hair, big black glasses, pure white toothy grin) as well as his music which was gently rebellious, openly joyous, occasionally angry and wide-eyed innocent (“Oh Boy”) and quietly mature (“True Love Ways”) while pondering love.

I could tie this into higher ed marketing but it’s Sunday and I’d rather not.  I’ll continue reading about the guy who created a whole new market, inspired artists who changed society and spawned movements in many musical directions.  I’ll continue my incessant pondering about how we elevate people — artists, politicians, social activists — into permanent icon status.

Then I’ll listen to his music, saving for last “Not Fade Away.”  (Bonus: The Stones’ version)

Feel free to weigh in, all you fellow music lovers.


2 responses to “Buddy Holly: 50 Years & Timeless

  1. Nice tribute to a great and truly genuine American musical artist. Buddy Holly’s style and approach to music has been copied by many other artists, and the most blatant physical copycat was the young Elvis Costello (take a look at the cover art for EC’s first album in 1977). But Buddy Holly didn’t mind stealing from other artists, either. “Not Fade Away” — a brilliant song — borrowed that “Bo Diddley” guitar riff, which has appeared over and over again in rock’n’roll — from Bow Wow Wow”s “I Want Candy” to The Who’s “Magic Bus” and U2’s “Desire.”

    But I digress, as I usually do whenever I get the chance to put some of the music trivia rattling around in my brain on display. Getting back on track:

    The Don McLean essay is insightful and a touching tribute. Thanks for sharing it. I didn’t realize McLean had released an album by the same name as Carole King’s magestic “Tapestry.” Unfortunate timing.

    I didn’t spend the time to read the entire deconstruction of the “American Pie” lyrics, but I’ve read the Cliff’s Notes version somewhere previously. Based on that previous read, I got the gist that McLean was saying through “American Pie” that Buddy Holly, et. al., could have “saved” American rock from the British invasion had they not died in that airplane crash. But that sort of speculation is fruitless, along the lines of “what if Hitler had won?” or, in this case, “what if Carole King had not released an album called ‘Tapestry’?” Had McLean’s album by the same name been a success, would he have ever written one of the great songs of my childhood?

  2. Andrew,
    Great info in your comment. I never thought about the BD riff in Not Fade Away but you’re right. I’m going back and listen to both.
    Nothing could “save” American rock from the British. If Holly hadn’t died, the Beatles would have been his opening act (as they did for Roy Orbison, I think) and had the same effect on the world.

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