The Big Bopper
I was in eighth grade when Don McClean’s “American Pie” came out. WTIX-AM, “The Mighty 690” ran the song on an intense rotation, including their own interpretation voice-over. At that time, I was wrapped up in The Beatles and The Who. I knew who Buddy Holly was, but I was just too young for his music to have been an influence on me. I was just a couple of months old on February 3, 1959, and wouldn’t venture out of my cocoon of British Invasion and electronic rock until I hit university and started go going to “50s parties” in the late 70s. There were many other references in the song that hit closer to home, stuff from the late 1960s that were much more important to a 13-year old.
McClean held back for years when it came to discussing interpretations of “American Pie.” I like this particular quote of his on the subject of what the song means:
It means I don’t ever have to work again if I don’t want to.” Later, he stated, “You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me … Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.
Eventually he did admit that the song was his way of working out his feelings about the death of Buddy Holly. I can see how that grew into a run-down of many things music-related that struck him over time.
Buddy Holly wasn’t the only musician who departed on The Day The Music Died. Richie Valens was in that plane, along with J. P. Richardson, “The Big Bopper”. While certainly Holly and Valens were the bigger stars, Richardson was still popular, with that deep base voice.