The Day The Music Died

This week marks the 57th anniversary of the passing of musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson, and the 21-year-old pilot of their chartered plane, Roger Peterson. Their deaths in the early morning hours shortly after takeoff from Mason City, IA en route to Fargo, ND shook the music world to its core back in 1959. Years later, the shock was still being felt when it inspired, in part, Don McLean’s 1972 number 1 hit “American Pie” in which he referred to February 3, 1959 as “the day the music died.”
The tragic loss of these young people nearly 60 years ago matters for more reasons than could reasonably be recounted here. But, as I read some of the reflections of this week, I was reminded that there is always much more to a story, tragic or otherwise, than meets the eye. I was reminded that when we look deeper at circumstances and events, we learn more and appreciate more about the people behind the story. If experience is a great teacher, story is her best tool.
To some, the story of that plane crash in an Iowa field is simply a recounting of a tragic incident and nothing more. For others it’s just the beginning of how one moment in time came to be and how it impacted so many other moments in its wake. But for me, it’s the stories within the stories- the ripple effect- that’s hard to forget. Why a bunch of young musicians were trying to cram 24 tour stops into a three week window in the first place. Why a plane piloted by a 21-year-old pilot was the better option to an unreliable and cold tour bus amid a mid-west winter. Why Valens only had a seat on that plane as a result of winning a coin toss. What became of those left to go on like Holly’s pregnant wife Maria, who miscarried shortly after Holly’s death, as well as those who would follow in the musician’s footsteps. (The Beatles named themselves with a nod to Holly’s band, the Crickets.)
Stories within stories.
We know that stories can be powerful tools to capture attention, help people to remember, move people to care, and lead them to take action. And very often, it’s the intersections that live within stories–those discoveries that aren’t readily known–that are the most harmonious of all.

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