NOTE: This originally started as a personal Facebook post, which I then added to and published in a blog for a radio station I used to work for. Here’s the original blog.
On February 3rd, 1959, a plane crash claimed the lives of 3 of the biggest rock stars of the era, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. We came close to also losing Dion and Waylon Jennings. It’s a day that has become known as “The Day The Music Died.” But while it is a tragic day in world of music, I choose not to view it as when the music died… rather when the music lived.
I grew up listening to oldies and classic rock and all of that. My dad got me started on The Beach Boys and Chuck Berry before I was listening to anything else. I could sing Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” before I even know what it was about. Early on in my career I hosted an oldies show focusing on rock of the 60s, built entirely out of my own library, when I was 25. I just wanted to give you a bit of background on my experience with oldies music and music in general before we dive into this.
Buddy Holly was one of the biggest stars of early Rock ’n’ Roll. His death left a big, huge, gaping hole in the music world. Sure we had Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry and Johnny Cash, a number of doo wop acts, Jerry Lee Lewis. But Holly’s absence was considerably noticeable. It was a hole that The Animals, The Kinks, The Zombies, The Dave Clark Five and ultimately The Beatles flew over to fill. Thus began the famed British Invasion of the 1960s.
Now… think about it. Had Holly, Valens and Richardson not died, the British invasion never would have happened. The bands still may have become popular, sure, but not caused the sensation they did. And with their heavy American blues, rock, R&B and even reggae influence, their new, innovative processes in the studio and on stage, and, yes, their experimentation with drugs…. that fueled the psychedelic era. That never happens.
With the country influences that Holly, Presley, Lewis and Roy Orbison were bringing to their rock ’n’ roll, and the bluesier influences Berry and Little Richard were bringing, rock ’n’ roll may not have taken off to the heights that it did, but both country and blues would have become the more dominant genres, instead of rock and pop.
Music and pop culture had a huge influence over the 60s era cultural revolutions, and vice versa. I think that even though Valens was downplaying his Latin heritage, he still would have become a huge star, and given Latin artists at the time someone to look up to and follow in the footsteps of. So we could have seen a rise in Latin artists, and with that influx of talent, comes more Latin music. Very similar to Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Sam Cooke and Otis Redding for black artists of the era. Valens’ life and career were cut short way too early (he was only 17), so we never got to the next generation of Latin artists, like when we got Sly & The Family Stone, Marvin Gaye, Billy Preston or Jimi Hendrix. We get Santana on the national stage, but as an exception, not the rule.
It becomes this big elaborate ripple effect. A lot of that ripple effect comes down to 2 things: influence and timing. Timing plays a big role in what becomes popular and who becomes famous and so on and so forth. Grunge rose as people grew tired of the antics of hair metal. The 80s New Wave happened because MTV started, European acts had been making music videos for a while, so that’s all they had to play. As mentioned earlier, the British Invasion happened because they struck while the iron was hot.
But then there’s the influence factor. Look at pop boy-bands like One Direction. You can trace that all the way back to the pre-plane crash Doo Wop, but there’s also the marketing of the bands as teen idols, and that has a lot to do with Beatlemania. No Beatlemania, no BeeGees, no New Kids, no Backstreet Boys, no One Direction. Funk doesn’t happen in the late 60s? No hip-hop, as we know it. It would have come along later. I think it still would have happened. But it would be vastly different. We don’t have Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash and Run DMC. And then we don’t have all the 90s artists they influenced. And then we don’t have all the 2000s artists THEY influenced. No glam rock. No arena rock. No metal. The punk movement never happens. No 80s new wave. No ska. Hair metal’s gone, so is grunge. 90s alt/college rock is gone. MTV never happens, or happens differently, and now there’s THAT huge crater in pop culture.
As I said earlier, country could have been the dominant genre, so that looks different. Even some of the classic artists and giants of the genre like Dolly, Conway, Kenny Rogers, George Jones, Hank Jr, Reba, George Strait and Garth Brooks may not have risen because now it’s a crowded field. American artists who were huge in rock in the 60s and 70s, like Bob Dylan, The Doors, Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles, Bob Segar, Steve Miller, they could be big names in country now. And then there’s all the artists they could have influenced.
In order for everything to happen as we know and love it… it’s almost like that plane crash had to happen.
Today is the day the music lived.
Originally published at 979kickfm.com.