Buddy Holly
By: Lynn Peril | Categories: HiLo Heroes, Pop Music

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The early death of BUDDY HOLLY (1936-59) transformed him into an icon of the Boomers’ Happy Days-esque vision of American life in the 1950s, all poodle skirts and sock hops at the malt shop, or horn-rimmed glasses and “the day the music died.” He has been name-checked or referenced by other songwriters besides Don McLean, and he’s been the subject of a truly bad biopic; adding insult to injury, one of his most famous songs was hijacked for the title of a middlebrow rom-com, Peggy Sue Got Married. All of which is terribly unfair, because the non-mythological Holly was a much more interesting figure. A brilliant songwriter and performer, he had recorded enough material by the time of his death at 22 that “new” platters were still being released a decade later. A young Bob Dylan caught Holly on tour, as did a youthful Keith Richards — John Lennon and Paul McCartney had to settle for records and the radio. (McCartney later made up for the loss by buying the rights to Holly’s entire catalog.) The plane crash that immortalized Holly cut short a career in flux. He’d left his hometown of Lubbock, Texas, for Greenwich Village — where he enjoyed going to jazz and folk clubs, and was said to be experimenting with flamenco-style guitar.

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Lynn Peril is the author of Swimming in the Steno Pool: A Retro Guide to Making It in the Office. She lives in Oakland, California.