The Day the Music Died was February 3, 1959 when the world lost Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. No doubt, this was a huge shock to the music world as these were 3 young stars on the rise that have since immensely impacted rock & roll and pop culture.
We have lost many influential musicians since that fateful day in 1959, but most recently from the end of 2015 into these first four months of 2016, there has been a mass succession of icons passing away and, for me, it has been devastating. From Scott Weiland, Lemmy, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, Lonnie Mack, Phife Dawg, Keith Emerson, to most recently, the incredible Prince, it has been a whirlwind of loss.
As an artist, songwriter, and musician, I’ve always considered my musical heroes as my teachers. If I wanted to incorporate bigger harmonies in my music, I would consult the textbooks of Stevie, Lindsey and Christine AKA Fleetwood Mac. If I wanted to learn about the best (in my opinion) resolve in music, I religiously studied the entire Beatles catalog. If I wanted to learn how to blend different genres but still sound cohesive and still sound like one artist, it was Professor Bowie, and Professor Prince. For me, losing Glenn Frey, Bowie and Prince have hit me the hardest because of their impact and influence on my music. Glenn’s songwriting and his solid presence as the band-leader (along with Don Henley) of [the] Eagles has been super influential on what kind of artist and person I strive to be. I think that even when the “teacher” dies, their lessons are forever. As long as the music remains, there is more to be discovered. Our brain patterns change all of the time and sometimes I listen to a song I’ve listened to 1000 times and for the first time, something new hits me. These moments are the gifts of great art and great teachers.
My manager has always said everything else is transient, but art outlives us all. What has provided great solace for me, and I am sure for a lot of people, is revisiting the gifts of all of these icons. Their music is timeless and as poignant today as it was when they composed it. One reason all of these artists were covered so prominently in the media when they passed was because they really changed the world. A lot of struggling musicians and artists are made to feel that what they are doing is not important, but let these last 5 months be a reminder that when you give the world your truest, most authentic musical gifts, no matter how small, you have permanently changed the narrative and the world will mourn.
Life is going to happen no matter what we do. Tough times will befall us all. We may lose our health, we may lose our faith in ourselves from time to time, but we cannot stop creating. We must still, as artists, reach into the depths of ourselves and release our truth, because at the end of the day, every single artist is a potential game changer as long as we are not scared to play.
When Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper prematurely passed away in 1959, they had each only been known and revered for such a short time, but there is no denying their eternal impact on popular music. Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Buckley, Kurt Cobain also were only in the public arena for a few years each, but they cemented their importance because they lived in their artistic truth. We all have the choice to try and do what we think others expect us to do and play on the safe side of the street or we can really go for it. We can #chasedreams no matter the risk, no matter the cost. These fallen icons have continued to inspire that within me because when you create something out of nothing that did not exist before you, the artist made it, you are channeling something so deeply profound and it is always important. People don’t remember what they ate for breakfast 6 years ago, but hearing a song has the power to evoke emotions from years ago and bring to light historic personal and defining moments. It is one of the most powerful forces in our lives.
All artists at any level are important and significant; but there are those that find their way into our collective consciousness in such a rare and special way, that when we lose them, it is as if a part of us is lost as well. Let us not be discouraged by this, but rather, let’s be grateful for all of the music, lessons, and memories and let’s keep rocking into the sunset.