What Actually Happened The Day The Music Died?

Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Don McLean all have at least one influence in common: Buddy Holly. As a young man, McLean was so affected by Holly, he later wrote "American Pie" about what happened on the day the music died; his poetic label for Holly's tragic demise. The day the song refers to was February 3, 1959, when rising music stars Holly, Ritchie Valens and JP Richardson, AKA The Big Bopper, perished when their private airplane impacted into a snowy field. All three were on the verge of success and were touring the upper Midwest on the Winter Dance Party tour when they made the fateful decision to skip a bus ride to their next destination and take a plane instead.

Holly was the biggest name on the tour, and sales of his records increased posthumously. In addition to influencing the way rock 'n' roll is performed by using one bass, one drum, and two guitars, Holly's embrace of his everyday-guy looks and thick glasses was appealing to fans across the country. Valens and Richardson each created a couple famous hits still featured in oldies collections, and could very well have had long, successful careers if they survived. Through "La Bamba," Valens is credited with helping to start Chicano rock, and who knows where Richardson's energetic stage presence may have taken him.

Like many popular people who passed while still young, the three musicians' final moments are riddled with conspiracies, and legends surrounding the event wonder who gave up their seat on the plane the day the music died, as well as who did not get on the plane the day the music died. Without witnesses, what really happened may never truly be known, but the day three promising musicians lost their lives will be remembered by history forever.