By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
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Holly's name did return to album covers, but they didn't hold the same kind of records his friends and fans remembered. His first, a collaboration with the writing team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, hinted at a new direction, and his next album--a collection of a dozen Spanish standards, featuring Holly's burgeoning flamenco guitar stylings--confirmed it. In the next few years, Holly would try his hand at gospel and blues and country, anything but rock and roll. It wasn't until he began playing with Lennon that he found his way back, leading to the duo's stripped-down rock-and-roll set, 1978's Rave On, a mix of old and new tunes. Critics and fans agreed: Holly was back. Then he was gone again.
"John brought me back, inspired me to pick up a guitar again, and when he was gone, it just didn't feel right," Holly says. "I still wanted to make music, but I didn't really know how to do it. I didn't know what I wanted."
Before long, Holly returned to film work, but he hasn't recorded another full album of new compositions. At this point, he says, he never will. That part of his life is behind him, another part of him that he can put on the shelf and look at and remind himself of from time to time. He's sad about it, sure, but happy, too. It's a contradiction that describes his entire life. For all of the sadness Holly has endured, he still ends most of his sentences with a smile and a laugh with his eyes. Yes, his life has been filled with heartbreak, but you can tell from even the briefest of conversations that he's glad to have lived it. To have a chance to live through it. To have a chance to live at all.
"There was a reason I didn't get on that plane," Holly says, "and I see it every single time I come home and see Maria. I hear it every time I get a call from my son, and every time my grandkids visit. There was so much I was meant to do, and it doesn't matter that to do it, I had to go through some tough times. I was lucky. End of story. But I was also blessed, and I've never forgotten that. I've had a better life than anyone has a right to expect. If I never make another record, if I never pick up the guitar again, if I never get on a stage again, it doesn't matter."
Rave on, Buddy.