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Early in the days of Rock ‘n Roll, the popular style of music that emerged in the United States in the mid-1950s, a tragic and fatal plane crash was the cause of death for three famous musicians as well as their pilot.

On February 3,1959, Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and J.P. Richardson were on an airplane as their bands were touring across the Midwest. Running into a thick winter storm over Iowa, their plane went down in a cornfield and the three musicians were all killed, along with pilot Roger Peterson. Rock ‘n Roll fans all over the US grieved the loss of these men, with several songs and movies being made in the years following.

History of the Day the Music Died

More than a decade after the plane crash with these beloved musicians, songwriter Don McLean immortalized the men in his song, American Pie, which included the lyrics “the day the music died”.

Today, The Day the Music Died is observed to pay respect to these musicians and the general culture of rock ‘n roll music in the 1950s. It can be enjoyed as a time to remember those who paved the way and pushed music toward the edges more than a half century ago.

How to Observe The Day the Music Died

Looking for ideas to show appreciation for The Day the Music Died? Here are some great ideas for celebrating the lives of these incredible musicians:

Listen to Songs from the Musicians who Died

In honor of The Day the Music Died, take some time to celebrate the musical genius of the three men, Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and J.P. Richardson.

  • La Bamba by Ritchie Valens (1958). Covering a Mexican folk song, this is one of the most popular adaptations and is now listed as one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Hits of All Time.
  • That’ll Be the Day by Buddy Holly and the Crickets (1957). Recorded with a different band a year prior, it wasn’t until this recording that the song became super popular.
  • Chantilly Lace by The Big Bopper (1958). Recorded by J.P. Richardson, also known as The Big Bopper, this song has a super catchy tune and lyrics that pay homage to a big-eyed girl.
  • Oh Boy! by Buddy Holly and the Crickets (1957). Part of the album The “Chirping” Crickets, this song has fun lyrics.

Visit Clear Lake, Iowa

Many people like to pay respect to the four men who died in the 1959 plane crash by visiting the site on February 3 each year. Perhaps this would be a good way to celebrate The Day the Music Died by taking a memorial trip to the site and having a vigil with candles and a moment of silence.

Watch a Film About the Musicians

Whether it’s a documentary or a fictional retelling, try watching one of these movies that tells the story of the musicians from The Day the Music Died:

  • The Buddy Holly Story (1978).
  • La Bamba (1987).
  • The Day the Music Died (1999).

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