Thursday, October 11, 2012

Buddy Holly.

Is there ever a bad time to talk about Buddy Holly? His birthday on September 7th is certainly a good occasion for these brief thoughts. 

In the late 70's I went through a spate of reading Anne Tyler books (didn't everybody?). One had a resonant image of a character, after a traumatic event, carrying themselves as if their head were an overfilled glass of milk. For some reason, I feel this way about Buddy Holly's music - as if his tragically attenuated career led to a small body of work that is easily containable - like a glass of milk - and I don't want to spill a drop.

On the other hand, that body of work is what I consider bedrock music. The songs are so perfectly constructed, the performances so natural, that they can be seen as nearly indivisible essences, like subatomic particles. This is one reason why covers of his songs are almost always disappointing. One of the best versions is The Beatles take on Words of Love, mainly because it's the most precise. That elemental power is also why listening to him, even the ballads, is so energizing. Not bad for barely four years of professional work.

Finally a word about influence. The self-contained unit of Buddy Holly & The Crickets set the template for much of what was to come (and inspired the name "The Beatles"). As Lou Reed put it, "You can't beat two guitars, bass, drums." He might have added that you can't beat having a great songwriter in the band. What would the 60's sound like if Buddy hadn't arrived at the precise moment he did? Perhaps John and Paul wouldn't have seen the need for George - or vice versa. Imagine that.

And as another quick exercise to appreciate him even further, consider all the life you've lived since turning 22. Happy birthday, Charles Hardin Holley!

Here's one favorite:

My wife and I had the words to True Love Ways read aloud as part of our wedding ceremony: 

Rave On, Buddy, Rave On:

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