On music and dreaming and things

Today is the 52nd anniversary of the tragic crash of February 3, 1959, which took from us Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and Richie Valens, along with the young pilot, Roger Peterson.

Amazing how something so rich can be swept away so quickly. And how their voices are forever frozen at their youth, in their promise. I often walk the village and pass by Buddy’s old apartment. He used to go out with his wife after midnight (in shades, of course) and play guitar with the early folkies in the park. Who knows what would have happened if he’d lived, met Fred Neil, Jimi Hendrix, David Crosby, McGuinn, John Phillips, any of the cats who rolled into NYC around 1961. Not to mention Dylan.  Buddy knew what was hip, he knew what he was doing. One can only extrapolate and wonder about that stilled life, that stilled dream.

Sometimes I think the children or our beloveds lost in our lives–whether it is a would-be brother or sister from a miscarriage, a grandparent we never got to know, but a presence felt–these people, these souls, they come and are with us, guiding us. Who is to say that my dear friends, whom I feel in my soul, are not my true brothers?  The children my parents meant to have, but couldn’t?

I think of this and then I wonder if we, we who have come to this great city and so many others, and have built stories and troubadour families out of the splinters of perhaps something we were wanting, music, love we were feeling, to create art, music soul life, here in the concrete dirty streets covered with ice, as hard as the field in Iowa where fate met those four young men with so much promise, I wonder if we, we who have lived and died in the wake of their tragedy, we who are playing our Stratocasters and smiling onstage, we who have loved music and dance our asses off at Madison Square Garden, we who travel and roam, to seek, to receive, and to give of our selves, for ourselves and for others, in beautiful truth of music– I wonder if we are the true legacy of these souls, carrying on with our daily trials and making music real. That they are with us, a piece of them is with us moving us to keep rock and roll vital. God, I hope so.

I think too about Waylon Jennings. He was Buddy Holly’s bass player on that tour, and was all set to ride with the plane that night, when he lost his seat in a coin toss. Buddy quipped, “Well, I hope your ol’ bus freezes up,” and Waylon quipped back, “I hope your ol’ plane crashes.”

I am told he was haunted every day of his life for the seat he lost in the coin toss that fateful evening.  Waylon is with them now.  I hope his soul has found rest and he too knows how his legacy, his life, meant to so many. How he touched so many people. How he lived out his promise to such a grand extent and with his wife and son and friends, kept real music alive and left us all that gift.

In 2009, Maria Elena Holly visited the Brevoort, where she lived with Buddy, just a few steps from Washington Square, for the first time since the tragedy. In an interview, she said she walked into the lobby and, clear as day, Buddy stood in front of her, smiling. “Where’ve you been?” he laughingly spoke. “I’ve been waiting for a long time.”

Maria said that she believed souls who have never found rest often return to the last place they left. She said she smiled back at her husband, and as she left the building, felt his presence leave with her and exiting the doors, become free, totally free.

I’ve written about that before, and I think what I said then is what I am saying now. That Buddy is with us all now, that he is free, that I hope Richie and Roger and J.P. have felt that too–that their families have found peace, and know how much their loved ones mean to us, and give to us. Not just on February 3, but every time some kid gets a cheap guitar and plugs it into an amp and plays an A chord. Loud.

upper east side, 2.3.11


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