The Day the Music Died – National Signing Day

I was in the gym this morning and thinking about what I could use a subject for today’s blog entry when one of the wall screens showed a conference taking place with the banner “National Signing Day” in the background. Being a non-sporting type of guy I was intrigued so, after my workout, I toddled off to the trusty old interweb and “ran a search” as we used to say, in the pre-googly days of dial up.

Now I don’t really have much to say about National Signing Day, or football in general, but I thought it would be great to turn this into a pun about National Singing Day, perhaps (see what I did there?). A quick bit of research showed that, along with all the sad misspellings commemorating today’s “big event” on twitter, there is some limited consensus that a National Singing Day exists (or rather A Sing Up Day) today too!

However, and much more poignantly, I also uncovered that today, February 3rd, is also noted as “The Day the Music Died” since it memorializes the dreadful plane crash in 1959 that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and their pilot, Roger Peterson near Clear Lake, Iowa.

For my younger readers (!), the phrase comes from Don McLeans’s classic song American Pie, first released in 1971, but it has now become part of American musical folklore.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Holly, Valens and “Big Bopper” were early players in a youth culture shift that shaped the attitudes of the western world forever. They moved the focus of the old, staid world towards a more upbeat, positive, freer society that, in turn, paved the way for myriad positive societal changes throughout the US and beyond. Through the medium of music, and showmanship they showed the youth of the era that change could happen from the ground up.

Now, nearly 60 years later, I wonder if some of that spark has been lost as we have succumbed totally to the material nature of the modern world. It seems to me that the youth of today are more obsessed with plastic celebrity than raw talent; being force fed conformity through technology and the fear of making mistakes I wonder if they (and we) have lost something.

Perhaps it is time for those free spirits to be re-kindled and for me to bring up my homage to the simple instruction kit that was used in the 1977 Sniffin’ Glue fanzine some 18 years after The Day the Music Died to inspire the birth of the “punk” movement, and encourage the then disenfranchised kids to pick up a guitar and form a band.

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Rock on, kids!

~Richard

Groundhog Day and Memories

Today is Groundhog Day! For those of us living in Pennsylvania it means it’s time when the State gets a little more air-time as the news crews descend upon the small town of Punxsutawney, PA where a poor old groundhog, designated as “Punxsutawney Phil” is dragged into the limelight from his home in the ludicrously named “Gobbler’s Knob” and, through some magical ceremony, prognosticates on whether Spring will be early or late.

The statistics of Phil’s accuracy are interesting and, with a 39% rate of being correct are significantly worse than chance. This being said, then I am assuming that we will have a long Winter this year since the unreliable rodent has opined that it will be an early Spring. Let’s see!

Of course the other famous Groundhog Day is the now classic 1993 film of the same name directed by Harry Ramis and starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. In my opinion this is much more fun! The idea of reliving the same day repeatedly but being able to alter it though your own behaviour is quite fascinating from a philosophical point of view. As Murray experiences in the film, after the initial shock and boredom wears off, there are myriad ways one can explore one’s own psyche as well as that of others. Now that is quite a fascinating concept. Imagine the ability to simply erase the mistakes of a day until, in the end you create what you consider to be your perfect day. Could you do it, or would you go mad trying?

I, on the other hand am going to approach this from a more mundane and blatant angle by posting one image below a link to a few images of the town where I spent some of my childhood many years ago.

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The number of days we kids spent roaming around and playing in this area, especially over the school holidays, meant that we were always searching for that “perfect day” and, although we wouldn’t have called it such, perhaps this was our own Groundhog day of sorts…  

~Richard

What’s happening to All the Young Dudes? They’re getting old…and dying, but that’s OK

Yesterday morning I heard that Dale Griffin had died at the age of 67. Although not a household name, I enlighten you. He was the drummer with the 70’s British band, Mott the Hoople, who are probably best known for their famous anthem, All the Young Dudes,” penned by David Bowie, which went on to become a staple song of the glam rock era. That’s right, David Bowie, who died only a few days earlier at the age of 69, only a few days after Ian “Lemmy” Kilmiser, at 70 years old. As I was contemplating this, I heard than Eagles co-founder, Glenn Frey, also died the same day at the same age as Dale Griffin.

My initial thought was WTF is happening to the musicians that shaped my youth? They’re dropping like flies! Who will be next? Given I have a fairly eclectic musical taste and I have already lost Frank Zappa, Ian Dury, Joe Strummer, and too many others to mention who provided background to my adolescent years and beyond, or possibly shaped it, it’s hard to say but one thing is for sure: this trend ain’t ever gonna stop.  After all, as the oft quoted adage goes: only two* things in life are certain – death and taxes. We can perhaps avoid or defer the latter but the first is unavoidable, even for the rich and famous.

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When I was much younger I would have probably made some smart-alec remark like, well they were old, what did you expect? But now I have grey hair and ache a bit more in the morning I seem to see it a little differently. Lemmy only made the traditional “three score years and ten” by a few days and the others didn’t quite get there. We live In an era where magazines espouse that “60 is the new 50,” life expectancy is generally rising, and people who we would originally classed as “the elderly” when I was a kid (i.e., people who are of retirement age) are now expected to have gym membership.

Perhaps we need to be reminded sometimes that it’s not the length of time we have lived but how we have lived and the impact we have made.

And look at the lives these guys led! They sure packed a lot of living into their time on earth. Being a rock star may be a hedonistic lifestyle,  but it’s also creative: listen to what they left for us. They represented different musical genres but they each allowed their millions of followers, be they angst-ridden teens, partying youths, or older adults to indulge in their creativity for a while. They made us smile, cry, and just think about life, the universe and everything, even if only for the length of a single song. We should celebrate that, and not dwell unnecessarily on their deaths.

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So, as I bid farewell to these great artists I unashamedly steal some lyrics from the Hoople/Bowie song in celebration of how their musical legacies “carry the news (there you go)…”

 

 

 

~Richard

 

* or three, if you know the old adolescent joke, but that’s another story.

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