Tuesday, March 30, 2010

#33 The Lost King... Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly was lost to us at such an early age that the majority of his legend is pure speculation. He was so incredibly talented that his brief career before his untimely death inspired pretty much all of rock and roll that came after him. Whereas Elvis was often denounced for stealing black music and calling it his own to gain his fame, Holly had crafted his brand of guitar rock and roll that was totally his own. With his trademark hiccuping vocals and his extremely talented guitar playing, Buddy Holly had begun revolutionizing popular music from the moment he laid his first track down. The legend that grew after his death was based on the endless speculation of what height he would have climbed to had his career not been cut so short. I am of the mind to agree with those people and I think had he survived he would have surpassed Elvis many times over and been known as the king of Rock. Quite a good deal of Elvis's image was his look, whereas Holly was sort of nerdy looking, with his curly hair and large horn rimmed glasses. Buddy Holly crafted his popularity with nothing but his incredible talent and he was so young when he died I think that his talent was only increasing when he was taken from us.

Buddy Holly was born in 1936 in Lubbock Texas. He came from a family of musicians who encouraged him in that direction at a very young age. By age 5 he had already won a talent show for his singing and he had begun playing the guitar as well as the piano and the violin. In 1955, Buddy saw Elvis perform, an event that helped him to realize music was getting to a point where he could begin to create the music he wanted to. Less then six months after seeing Elvis perform, Holly was sharing the bill with him and his career had begun to take off like a rocket. over the next few years Holly would release just 3 albums before his death in 1959 at age 22. These three albums are recognized as some of the most influential works in rock history. Buddy was the first white musician who wrote, performed and produced his own works. With his band the Crickets, he was one of the first white musicians to ever play the Apollo theatre in New York. When he toured the UK in 1958, Keith Richards was in the audience and seeing Buddy perform Not Fade Away was one of the biggest influences in Richards' life. Keith would later say "Everyone in rock is influenced by Holly". Two nights before Holly's death, 17 year old Bob Dylan saw him perform in Duluth from the front row. He later stated that Holly stood a few feet away from him and at one moment looked right at him, a moment that profoundly affected him in later years (Dylan mentioned this during his Grammy acceptance speech for his
Time Out of Mind record).

Holly's influence still abounds today in more genre's then rock. He pretty much invented the rock band standard of two guitars, bass and drums. His lyrics showed the beginning of a much deeper and richer talent that sadly never got a chance to be shown. His instrumentation was incredibly complex for the day including instruments such as the Celesta that were usually not used in rock and roll. Sadly, after a show in February of 1959, Holly died in a plane crash on his way to another performance. With him on the plane were fellow musicians Richie Valens and 'The Big Bopper'. Their deaths were forever immortalized in rock history as 'The day the music died'. Many record executives at the time believed that Holly's death would create a ripple effect and that rock and roll would be buried with him. As a result, the next few years saw a much fewer number of record contracts being given to rock and roll groups. People were so shocked at his death that many began spreading rumours that it was a conspiracy and that the government or the mob had ordered Holly's death.

50 years after Holly's death, his legend is still inspiring musicians and his music is still seeing sales. Buddy was the part of the first group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame. In my own personal opinion, Buddy Holly was the greatest of the fifties rockers. I have always enjoyed his music and it stands alone as good music, not just as nostalgia rock. Some of his tracks sound like they could have been written today, which might also speak to the revival of older styles of rock that has been occurring lately. If you have heard of Buddy Holly but have never given him a really solid listen then I suggest you do so. Start out with tracks like 'Rave on' and 'Peggy Sue'. If you dig it, then try some of the accoustic stuff from his later work, it is really quite good.

Here is one of the only videos of Buddy Holly in performance. Live in 1957,


Anonymous said...

Thanks always for bringing us the classics Tosh :)

Tosho said...

one listen to Buddy Holly and you can hear his influence on the Ramones, they sound like a punk rock version of Buddy Holly. Joey Ramone has Buddy's vocal hiccup down to an art.