Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Drove my Chevy to the levee...

Exactly fifty years ago, Buddy Holly's plane crashed outside of Clear Lake, Iowa. Don McLean called it "the day the music died" in his song, American Pie.

Growing up in Minnesota, I had many opportunities to drive by the Clear Lake exit on I-35. In the summer of 1983, I stopped into the McDonalds there and went on a whim to the Surf ballroom, the site of Buddy's last concert.

Back then, it hadn't changed much, and in the lobby were a bunch of pictures. There was a particular photo of Buddy, standing in the Surf's lobby. That photo struck me; Buddy Holly changed in a flash from somebody in the past to a real person who had stood in the same place I was standing now. I knew the story of his last concert and his plane crash, but somehow the whole story played out right there in my mind's eye: freezing, broke, far from his friends and family, desperate to get a good night's sleep, Buddy rents a little airplane in the middle of a snowy night in the middle of nowhere...

The realisation of that moment has stayed with me vividly to this day, and I have become a real Buddy Holly fan. The anniversary of his plane crash has always since made me feel terrible.

When I first moved to Stockholm in 1989, I went to the Hard Rock Cafe on the crash's 30th anniversary, expecting to hear a little Buddy on the stereo, but, much to my disappointment, the man there said the music wouldn't play. I realised later there were many other places in the city where Buddy's music was being played. Rock n' roll is very popular in Sweden.

A great deal has been written about Buddy Holly, his short life and his musical legacy. The Independent newspaper here in London had a great article and the Des Moines Register has a media-rich site, too, if you're interested to know more.

Last story: a couple of weeks ago, we were at a local market, and one of the stands was playing "Everyday" as we walked by (the percussion provided by Buddy's drummer, Jerry Allison, slapping his knees). I said to Grant, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically for his liking, "Hey! That's Buddy!", like I had just seen an old friend. Which, in a sense, I had.

Sorry for the long off-topic post. Normal service resumes tomorrow. But listen to a Buddy Holly song today; he's left us a lot of classics to choose from.

1 comment:

Rob Briitton said...

Don, no need to apologize. I really liked the musing. I also thought about Buddy Holly this week, and last Saturday our beloved Minnesota humorist saluted him, as he always does. I'm headed out to Lubbock next month and am looking forward to being in his home town