Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash, Feb. 3, 1959, immortalized in Don McLean’s “American Pie.”
Buddy was 22, Ritchie was 17, and Jay P. Richardson was 28. Pilot Roger Peterson was 21.
Rock and roll belongs to the young.
The Beech-Craft Bonanza crashed in the early morning hours of Feb. 3. Disoriented by the darkness and snow, Peterson evidently flew the aircraft directly into the snow-covered ground.
The night before, they played at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.
I visited the Surf Ballroom one crisp, cold, January morning. Looking in the windows, I saw the remains of the show from the night before. The stage and dance floor hadn’t changed in 40 years. I could see where Buddy stood and played his last show.Today the Surf Ballroom displays photos from the final performance.
Traveling to Clear Lake, I drove past the small airport in near-by Mason City. Beyond the small runway, snow-covered cornfields stretch into the distance, also unchanged in 40 years. Just a few miles away, perhaps not even as far as I could see, the scars from a small plane crash had long-since healed and disappeared.
They’ve been dead much longer than they lived.
Outside the building, looking in the window, the bitter wind whipped tears from my eyes. I stood where Buddy and Richie and JP stood as they crowded into the car that carried them to the airport, and that cold, cold wind still carried the notes from a song.