The Day the Music Died, Feb. 3, 1959 Part 2 of 5: Buddy Holly
By Richard Zowie
Fifty years is a long time, and over those years the surviving family members and friends of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper have, no doubt, had plenty of time to reflect on their lost loved ones. No doubt, they’ve answered questions from reporters on the first-year anniversary, 10-year, 25-year and, now, 50-year anniversary. Some thoughts are very fond, some very sad and others are bittersweet.
For this series of columns, I’ve had the privilege of talking on the phone with some family members of two of the three in the crash: Jay Perry Richardson (the Big Bopper’s son), who was born two months after his father died; Connie Lemos (Valens’ younger sister) and Bob Morales (Valens’ older brother). Their stories, along with the stories of others I’ve corresponded with, are truly amazing.
As much as I would’ve liked to, I was unable to interview Larry Holley, Buddy’s older brother. (Buddy’s real surname is spelled Holley and was misspelled “Holly” on a recording contract, resulting in the different spelling). Sherry Holley, Buddy’s niece and Mr. Holley’s daughter, told me her father preferred to speak through a book he’s written entitled The Buddy I Knew. For Mr. Holley, it is no doubt a very emotional experience talking about his younger brother.
On his website, http://www.larryholley.com, Mr. Holley has a poem about his brother titled “The Buddy I Knew”. It’s a poem of sorrow and joy, acutely obviously that Mr. Holley longs for the day when he can be reunited with his brother someday in heaven. My guess is that when the two meet again, one of the first things they’ll do is play some music together.
While it’s disappointing not to get to talk to Buddy’s brother, it’s completely understandable. I imagine Mr. Holley still feels, after all these years, that it’s easier to put his thoughts down on paper and in poetic form than it is to talk to yet another reporter.
One person I was able to talk to about Buddy was Jonathan Faber, a professional musician, founder and CEO of Indiana-based Luminary Group and, for more than a decade, the manager of licensing and intellectual properties for Maria Elena Holly, Buddy’s widow. Since Mr. Faber knows Ms. Holly and is very familiar with Buddy’s work, I wanted to find out from him his thoughts on Buddy’s music:
Richard Zowie: What impact do you feel Buddy Holly’s music has had on the music world?
Jonathan Faber: The impact Buddy Holly had on music is almost immeasurable. His sound, style, and look have been emulated to no end and he probably is the archetype of the singer-songwriter type that is so popular today. I always liked the fact that Buddy had his own niche and that he wrote his music when so many other artists just “performed” other people’s creations. With Buddy, you can almost get to know him through his music. His catalog is replete with songwriting gems, too. He was the polar-opposite of what one might call a one-hit wonder. His impact therefore was profound and we still today are hearing, seeing and feeling his influence.
RZ: What do you think would’ve happened to Buddy if he hadn’t died in that plane crash?
JF: Buddy in all likelihood would have continued his forward-looking, pioneering ways, and become a producer and created a record label to foster young artists. He of course would have continued writing music as well, and who knows how much music and art we will never hear as a result of his untimely passing. Let’s be glad for and celebrate what we do have, and that Buddy was so productive during his time here. His catalog of songs in the short time he had to write them in is more extensive and of higher quality than many other artists who had twice as long!
RZ: What do you feel are the biggest lessons that can be learned from Buddy’s untimely death?
JF: One lesson would be that it pays dividends to be prolific! But that kind of gift can’t be fabricated. One either has it or they don’t, and it is a rare gift indeed. Another lesson we can take from Buddy is to have your own style, be your own person, follow your own vision, and be true to yourself.
Richard Zowie is a Michigan-based writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.