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: