The Day the Music Died: A Look Back at a Rock & Roll Tragedy


Today marks the 51st anniversary of "The Day the Music Died," when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa. The musicians were in the middle of their Winter Dance Party tour — which also featured Dion and the Belmonts — across the frozen Midwest states in 1959 when conditions aboard their tour bus became so bad that the three men opted to charter a plane to their next gig. The rest is rock & roll tragedy: Waylon Jennings gave his seat aboard the plane to the Big Bopper, a decision that would haunt him the rest of his life. Valens won his ticket to fly in a coin flip. An inexperienced pilot named Roger Peterson was ill equipped for the wintry weather.

Read Rolling Stone's account of the last days of Buddy Holly and Greil Marcus' memorial written on the 10th anniversary of the crash, plus check out our gallery of other rockers that died well before their time:

The Last Days of Buddy Holly
Ritchie Valens, J.P. (The Big Bopper) Richardson and Buddy Holly by Greil Marcus
Not Fade Away: Rockers Lost Before Their Time

Staff Blog Main Next
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.