1959-“The Day the Music Died” plane crash kills musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J. P. Richardson and pilot near Clear Lake, Iowa

February 3, 2023

On February 3, 1959, a tragedy that became known as “The Day the Music Died” shocked young people across the country. On this day, three of the most iconic musicians in American music history- Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. Richardson- were killed when their plane crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa.

At just 22 years old, Buddy Holly had already significantly impacted music history despite his short time within it. Combining elements from multiple genres, including Country and Rockabilly,  Holly created a sound that was uniquely his own and would influence many other famous musicians, including Elvis Presley and Simon & Garfunkel.

Ritchie Valens was only 17 years old at the time of the crash. He was a guitarist, singer, and songwriter who brought an intensity to Rock n’ Roll that hadn't previously been seen. He had a  wild guitar-playing style and vivacious singing that captivated audiences anywhere he took the stage.  

J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson was an American musician and disc jockey. He ran a radio program and had several great musical hits of his own, including “Chantilly Lace” and “White Lightening.” He is also credited with creating the first music video in 1958.

The night of the big crash, terrible road conditions influenced Buddy Holly’s decision to charter a plane to carry the musicians to their next concert venue. Unfortunately, the pilot lost control of the aircraft, and he and the three artists all died on impact. This terrible tragedy rocked not only their families but the entire country. Don McLean’s 1971 hit, “American Pie,” referred to the disaster as “The Day the Music Died,” and the phrase has stuck. Nevertheless, the three young artists are remembered and celebrated each February for their contributions to American music.


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