The past few days I’ve been taking a brief break from blogging to recharge my soul with books, music, and crochet.
And so it was that I missed one of the saddest anniversaries in all of music history: February 3–the fifty-second since the plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, J.P. Richardson, better known as the Big Bopper, and their pilot.
I’m no different from most people in one respect: when I think of those heartbreaking deaths in a snowy Iowa cornfield, the first song that comes to mind is usually Don McLean’s “American Pie”, a hit a dozen years after the crash.
But there’s another that possibly has more resonance, and certainly relevance, to that specific tragedy.
“Tragedy” is its title, and on February 3, 1959, it was climbing the charts.
It was recorded by a young man from the Memphis area named Thomas Wayne, backed by a group called the Delons. Thomas Wayne was, in fact, Thomas Wayne Perkins, the younger brother (by fifteen years) of Johnny Cash’s legendary lead guitarist, Luther Perkins.
I first heard this song on a Charlie Rich album from the mid-1970s. It wasn’t until years later, when I was reading The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, that I learned that the song was actually recorded in 1959, and was charting the day the music died.
It did give me chills to realize that there’s a bridge, at the end of the song that poetically parallels the details of the crash and the deaths of Holly, Valens and Richardson:
. . .blown by wind
Kissed by snow
All that’s left is the dark
below. . .
Despite his obvious talent, Thomas Wayne never had another hit, and he too would die woefully young, at age thirty-one in a 1971 car crash.