People always seem to remember where they were when they heard John F Kennedy had been shot. I do. I was on the bus just outside Wicksteed Park in Kettering, on my way to see my best friend, Sarah Stuart. Living in England, Kennedy didn’t mean much to me though I felt sorry for his wife and children. For me, there was an earlier tragedy that happened when I was twelve, and I remember exactly where I was, not far from the bus stop where I’d heard about Kennedy. My rock and roll hero, Buddy Holly, had been killed in a plane crash along with Big Bopper and Ricky Valence.
Buddy Holly’s music was the soundtrack to my youth. My father hated him, and imitated his hiccoughing style sarcastically, but I loved Buddy, and the lyrics, the rhythm, and the beat of his brilliance did something to my soul that has remained with me for almost sixty years. What is remarkable is that Buddy produced such an amazing collection of original songs, and most of them in the eighteen months before he died at the mind-blowingly early age of twenty-two in 1959. I can’t imagine, what he might have produced, how he might have further influenced the minds of his aspiring fans and fellow artists, had he lived to be eighty, which he would have been this year. His songs have been covered by many artists since his death, but the originals, sung by him and The Crickets, are as fresh and relevant as they’ve always been.
I was feeling down yesterday – it was freezing cold and dull here in West Wales, and the will to live had faded somewhat, but then the program about Buddy Holly’s life came on the TV and transported me back to those golden days of my youth, when the sun always shone, and my pony’s hoof-beats on the metalled road kept time with my squawky voice yelling out ‘That’ll be the day…’ I knew every word, every hiccough, every nuance of timing. My pony, Paddy, a red roan from Connemara, loved to walk fast, and Buddy’s song was the perfect accompaniment as we roamed wild and free and made memories I shall never forget.
What prompted this post was a quote. Something Buddy had said. ‘I don’t know how to succeed, but I know how to fail: just try to please everyone.’
That’s so true, and I’ve spent my life trying and failing, so I should know. If he’d tried to please my father, he’d have been a Bing Crosby sound-alike, and the world would have been the poorer.
Buddy’s advice can be translated into anything we do. We will never please everyone, however hard we try, and we’ll only feel guilty for failing. To succeed, sometimes we need to please ourselves, believe in ourselves, stick to our guns, and be proud of our small successes. We need to ‘Rave On’ and ‘Not Fade Away’, and then we’ll surely please someone if only ourselves.
‘Thank you for the Music’, Buddy, to coin an Abba title. It could have been written for you.
‘The day the miusic died.’ Lyrics – American Pie – Don Maclean