The Day the Music Died Day on February 3rd remembers the unfortunate and untimely death of singers 22-year-old Buddy Holly, 17-year-old Richie Valens, and 28-year-old J. P. Richardson, aka: “The Big Bopper.” These three artists died in an airplane accident on February 3, 1959, near Clear Lake, Iowa. Their pilot, Roger Peterson, also perished in the crash.
The Day the Music Died was dubbed so by Don McLean’s song “American Pie”
Buddy Holly’s band was on tour and had played at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. They were headed to their next destination in Moorhead, Minnesota. For this leg of their journey, they decided to take a charter plane rather than go with their tour bus. Richardson “The Big Bopper”, had swapped places with Waylon Jennings, taking the latter’s place on the plane and Tommy Allsup had lost his place to Ritchie Valens in a coin toss.
Not long after takeoff, they were no longer able to be reached by radio, and they did not reach their destination. The aircraft was reported missing. The next day, the wreckage was found less than 6 miles northwest of the airport in a cornfield. Poor weather conditions and pilot error were determined, during the investigation, to have been the cause of the pilot losing control of the plane.
Pilgrimage & Tribute
The tragic event echoed through history for over 50 years. Visitors still make the pilgrimage each year to Clear Lake, Iowa, the resort town about 110 miles north of Des Moines, as this was the point of their last concert before the fatal accident.
“The day the music died” is a line in the 1972 Don McLean hit “American Pie.” McLean’s song, which he wrote in the late 1960s and released in 1971, was in part inspired by the tragic event which took the lives of three great musicians and their pilot.
“American Pie” lyrics by Don McLean
“But February made me shiver,
With every paper I’d deliver,
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step.
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside,
The day the music died.”