February 3, 2009: that'll be the day.
That's the 50th anniversary of the tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of rock and roll stars J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, Ritchie Valens, and Buddy Holly.
There are a number of ways to mark the anniversary of "the day the music died."
Holly hometown Lubbock, Texas, plans tours, panel discussions, and other events on Feb. 2 and 3.
The Smithereens will perform a tribute to Holly at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa (the last place Holly performed) on Feb. 2.
You could reminisce over ways Holly's music has touched your life. I was born the year after Holly died, but during my one-weekend career as a DJ at WJJM (1982), I proudly opened my first show with "Oh Boy!"
You can play Linda Ronstadt's 1977 cover version of "It's So Easy" over and over, watch Gary Busey in 1978's "The Buddy Holly Story" (mindful of the standard biopic inaccuracies, shortcuts and distortions), or lock yourself in your room and listen to the 3-CD "Memorial Collection" or 2-CD "Down The Line: Rarities" (both to be released Jan. 28).
Imitate one of the aforementioned Lubbock panels and speculate on where Holly would be now if not for the plane crash. Would he be an elder statesman of music, like Tony Bennett? (Even though Holly's national fame lasted only 18 months, and he was only 22 when he died, "Rolling Stone Magazine" in 2004 ranked him #13 on its list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.) Would he be a reclusive retiree? Would he have reinvented himself a dozen times over the decades?
Marvel at just how much the music industry has changed since Holly's time. We now have stereo FM radio, satellite radio, MTV, and VH1 -- but no "American Bandstand." Digital downloads, CDs, iPods and ring tones have changed our relationship with music. Radio station consolidation has tightened playlists and reduced DJ flexibility.
Debate the cryptic references in 1971's "American Pie" (some observers see Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and Janis Joplin hidden in the lyrics, but give it your own spin) and briefly share Don McLean's longing for a simpler era, before overt sexuality, drug abuse, and social protest took over rock.
Encourage an "oldies" radio station to give more airtime to Holly and his contemporaries. Many of today's oldies programmers think rock and roll history started with the British Invasion or even Woodstock. Next, it'll be starting with Milli Vanilli.
On the other hand, refrain from hypocrisy. It's easy to snicker at the rigid establishment figures who banned Holly's innovations as "jungle music," but some fans of Holly's music have become locked into one sliver of musical history. Come out of your comfort zone for at least one day. It's hard to celebrate the rebelliousness of Holly by turning a deaf ear to a new artist or new genre. Give a chance to someone else who hears the music in his head and wants to share it.
Holly deserves to be more than a fleeting glimpse of a young guy with geeky eyeglasses surrounded by coonskin caps, Hula Hoops, and "I Like Ike" buttons. Do your part this February and guarantee that the legacy of Buddy Holly and the other pioneers of rock and roll will "Not Fade Away."
Note: Danny Tyree welcomes e-mail at email@example.com.