Next Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. In the current issue of Rolling Stone, Holly’s friends, family and fellow musicians remember an artist who helped invent rock & roll as we know it today. Jonathan Cott revisits 1959’s Winter Dance Party, which would become known as rock’s Tour From Hell, as it wound its way across the frozen Midwest hitting places like Duluth, Minnesota, where a young Bob Dylan stood in the crowd. “Buddy, Ritchie and I used to sit in the back and jam together,” Dion tells Cott of the tour’s lengthy bus rides. “It was a little bit of heaven.” On February 3rd, fed up with the grind of the road, Holly, Valens, Richardson and their dirty laundry boarded a charter flight to Fargo that fell out of the sky.
To mark the tenth anniversary of the crash, Greil Marcus wrote a memorial for Rolling Stone in which he compared Holly to Dylan and took a closer look at Valens’ artistic accomplishments. “Traces of Holly’s vocal style, his phrasing rather than his insane changes from deep bass to something resembling soprano, pop up all through Dylan’s career: on an obscure 1962 Columbia single, ‘Mixed-Up Confusion,’ on ‘Absolutely Sweet Marie,’ on ‘I Shall Be Free No. 10,’ anywhere you look,” Marcus writes. “Dylan and Holly share a clipped, staccato delivery that communicates a sly sense of cool, almost teenage masculinity.”
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Remember other rockers lost before they reached age 40 in our Not Fade Away gallery: