Not Fading Away

Here's the easy version: Buddy Holly influenced the Beatles, who influenced pretty much everyone else who's ever picked up a guitar.

Here's the longer version: Besides the Beatles, Holly was an icon to the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, a favorite of artists as disparate as the Grateful Dead and Linda Ronstadt. (So many groups have covered him over the years, you could book the South by Southwest music festival for a couple of years and not have much trouble. OK, some of those bands and artists probably would rather catch the early-bird special at IHOP.) You can still hear his voice, his way with a three-minute pop song, in bands like The Strokes; trust us, it's not all Modern Lovers and Pixies references. Behind the scenes, Holly pioneered using the recording studio as another instrument, one of the first musicians to realize there was more than just a microphone to sing into. Even further behind the scenes, he was Courtney Love and Don Henley four decades ago--except, you know, talented--challenging bad record deals and worse publishing contracts.

The most amazing thing about it all: Holly was able to accomplish all of this before he turned 23. Many have sought to celebrate Holly's short life, but only a few have gotten it right. The most well known, 1978's The Buddy Holly Story (starring Gary Busey's teeth), borders on travesty to anyone who knows anything about Holly. It's a whitewash posing as biopic. Norman Petty, his early mentor and producer behind most of his biggest hits, doesn't show up once. Technically, neither do The Crickets: Instead of Joe B. Maudlin and Jerry Allison, there's two guys named Jesse and Ray Bob backing up Buddy.

Philip Norman's fantastic 1996 biography, Rave On, gets it right, however, and so does Buddy! The Buddy Holly Story. For more than a decade, Buddy! has been reintroducing audiences to a man who never completely went away. It's everything the Busey film was not, getting enough of the details right, but remembering that the only thing that really matters when it comes to Buddy Holly is the music.

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Zac Crain
Contact: Zac Crain

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