The Day the Music Died Day on February 3rd every year remembers the unfortunate and untimely death of singer’s 22-year-old Buddy Holly, 17-year-old Richie Valens, and 28-year-old J. P. Richardson.
The Day the Music Died history
Three artists died in a plane crash on February 3, 1959, near Clear Lake, Iowa. Roger Peterson, the pilot in the flight also died in the crash.
Buddy Holly's band was on tour and played at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. Their next destination was in Moorhead, Minnesota. For this journey, they decided to take a charter plane rather than travel by tourist bus. Richardson "The Big Bopper," swapped Waylon Jennings, took the latter's place on the plane, and Tommy Allsup lost his spot to Ritchie Valens in a coin toss.
Not long after takeoff, they could not be contacted by radio, nor did they reach their destination. The plane was announced missing. The next day, wreckage was found nearly 6 miles northwest of the airport in a cornfield. During the investigation, bad weather conditions and pilot error were determined to have caused the pilot to lose control of the plane.
Pilgrimage & Remembrance
The tragic event has reverberated throughout its more than 50-year history. Every year, visitors still make the pilgrimage to Clear Lake, Iowa, the resort town because it's their last time concert before the fatal accident.
"The Day Music Dies" is a line from Don McLean's 1972 hit "American Pie", which he wrote in the late 1960s and released in 1971. The author's inspiration comes from a tragic event. The carpet 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.”
On February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly (22 years old), Ritchie Valens (17 years old) and "The Big Bopper" JP Richardson (28 years old) were killed in a machine accident flew near Clear Lake, Iowa, with pilot Roger Peterson. The event became known as "The Day Music Dies," after singer-songwriter Don McLean called it so in his 1971 song "American Pie."
At the time, Holly and his band were performing on a "Winter Dance Party" tour across the Midwest. Rising artists Valens, Richardson and Dion and the Belmonts also joined the tour. Long trips between locations on cold, uncomfortable tour buses have adversely affected performers, with cases of colds and even frostbite. After stopping at Clear Lake for a performance, and disappointed with the condition, Holly chose to charter a plane to take them to their next location in Moorhead, Minnesota. Richardson, who had the flu, traded places with Jennings, taking his seat on the plane, while Allsup lost his seat to Valens in a coin toss.
Shortly after takeoff, at night and in bad, cold weather, the pilot lost control of the light aircraft, a Beechcraft Bonanza, which then crashed into a cornfield. Everyone on board was killed. This event has been mentioned in various songs and movies. Several monuments have been erected at the crash site and in Clear Lake, where an annual memorial concert is also held at the Surf Ballroom, and the venue for the artists' last performances.
How to celebrate The Day the Music Died
Turn on and enjoy some music by Richie Valens, Buddy Holly or The Big Bopper.
Use #TheDayTheMusicDied to post on social media to spread around the world.
ObservedThe Day the Music Died has been observed annually on February 3rd.
Monday, February 3rd, 2020
Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021
Thursday, February 3rd, 2022
Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Saturday, February 3rd, 2024