Innate talent, enthralling voices, revolutionary tunes. However, lack of time.
They all turned out to be fabulous artists, but time was not on their side. Buddy Holly (23 years old), Ritchie Valens (18), Otis Redding (26) were oldies singers that left too soon.
Charles Hardin Holley (1936 – 1959), known professionally as Buddy Holly, was an American singer-songwriter and a pioneer of rock and roll. Although his success lasted only a year and a half before his death in an airplane crash, Holly is described by critic Bruce Eder as “the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll“. His works and innovations inspired and influenced contemporary and later musicians, notably The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Eric Clapton. Holly was among the first group of inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
Holly saw Elvis Presley sing in Lubbock in 1955, and began to incorporate a rockabilly style, similar to that of Chuck Berry, which had a strong rhythm acoustic and slap bass. On October 15, he opened the bill for Presley in Lubbock, catching the eye of a Nashville talent scout. Holly’s transition to rock continued when he opened for Bill Haley & His Comets at a local show.
Following this performance, Decca Records signed him to a contract in February 1956, misspelling his name as “Holly“. He thereafter adopted the misspelled name for his professional career. Holly formed his own band, later to be called The Crickets. His success began with “That’ll Be The Day”.
In January 1959, Holly was invited in a three-week tour across the Midwest. The tour turned out to be a miserable ordeal for the performers, who had to endure long overnight travel in a bus plagued with a faulty heating system. The bus also broke down several times between stops. Therefore, Holly decided to rent a small airplane to take him to the next stop on the tour. Unfortunately, the plane crashed soon after taking off. Bandmate Waylon Jennings had given up his seat on the plane, causing Holly to jokingly tell Jennings, “I hope your ol’ bus freezes up!” Jennings shot back facetiously, “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes!”. It was a statement that would haunt Jennings for decades.
Ritchie Valens (1941 – 1959) was on the same plane. Born Ricardo Esteban Valenzuela Reyes, he was a Mexican-American singer, songwriter and guitarist. A rock and roll pioneer and a forefather of the Chicano rock movement, Valens’ recording career lasted only eight months. During this time, however, he scored several hits, most notably “La Bamba“, which was originally a Mexican folk song that Valens transformed with a rock rhythm and beat that became a hit in 1958, making Valens a pioneer of the Spanish-speaking rock and roll movement.
On February 3, 1959, on what has become known as The Day the Music Died, Valens was killed in the small-plane crash in Iowa, a tragedy that also claimed the lives of fellow musicians Buddy Holly and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. Valens was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
Otis Redding (1941 – 1967) was an American soul singer-songwriter and record producer.
He began his career touring with blues guitarist Johnny Jenkins and served as the lead singer in the band “Otis Redding and The Pinetoppers”. He signed a contract with recording label Stax Records and released his debut album “Pain in My Heart“. This album produced several successful singles, including “These Arms of Mine“.
Although he wasn’t very successful among white audiences in the United States, his concerts in Europe established the opposite. His performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 was one of his last big concerts until his death in a plane crash at the age of 26, one month before his biggest hit, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”, that sold about 4 million copies worldwide, was released. Reddings’ contribution to soul music led him to his nickname “King of Soul“.
Sadly, there are many other stories similar to theirs: Janis Joplin (27), Jim Morrison (27), Jimmy Hendrix (27), Kurt Cobain (27), Amy Winehouse (27), Bob Marley (36), John Lennon (40), Elvis Presley (42), Freddie Mecury (45).
And my favourite: