It’s been fifty-five years since the plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” Richardson, which was four years before I was born. I always think it’s just a little bit strange, the way the pop culture icon types live on forever. I grew up listening to the music of my mom’s generation, so I knew the giants hits of these men. Plus, back then, you could still find them on the radio. Not that you can’t still, but these days it’s only on the oldies channels.
But then, within my lifetime, Dan McLean went and wrote himself an anthem abut these people who died years before I was even born. I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s possible that I didn’t even really know they has passed until the song—and until I bothered to figure out what it was about, of course.
Anyway, I think it’s cool the way celebrities achieve that sort of immortality, leaving behind a piece of themselves in the thing that they loved to do, but I do still think it’s sort of strange, the way subsequent generations might know their work and still assign life to them.
And, I wonder how it is for the family. Do they enjoy surfing the radio dial and hearing their husband/son/father suddenly booming from the speakers? Or is it a sudden onslaught of pain all over again? Or, as I suspect, is it really a combination of the two, never knowing how the memory might make them feel on any given day? I know for myself, when unexpected thoughts of those I’ve lost come crashing into my consciousness, sometimes it brings a smile, and sometimes I am brought to totally unexpected tears. I’d assume it’s the same for the family of celebrity, only for them, that unexpected thought might be triggered at any time when faced with the work of their loved one.
And the other thing family and friends of the rich and famous have to deal with is the very public recognition of each anniversary of their loss. As I’ve mentioned before, those anniversaries are difficult for me, and that’s without having my own loved ones’ date of death plastered all over Google and listings of significant dates in history. I really can’t imagine how that must feel.
So, today, while I can recognize the talent lost so quickly all those years ago, and while I can mourn that loss of potential, it’s really the surviving family and friends who are most on my mind. I thank them for being willing to share their loved ones with the rest of us, and I hope that they find more joy than pain in their memories.
And speaking of that anthem, here’s a live version. I’m something of a purist, so I’d generally prefer to hear the recorded version I’ve known forever, but it’s good to mix things up now and again. And, besides, I really do love this song.