Here's a quick quiz for fans of classic rock 'n' roll:
- What band did the Beatles name themselves after?
- Who wrote the song that became the Rolling Stones' first big hit?
The answer to both questions is Buddy Holly and his band, the Crickets. Holly was a founding father of rock 'n' roll and the victim, at age 22, of the airplane crash immortalized in the song "American Pie" as "the day the music died."
See also: The Girls in the Songs.
Holly's music is very much alive in a new collection called Rave On Buddy Holly, 19 classic Holly songs reinterpreted by artists ranging from legends such as Paul McCartney to newer bands such as Florence and the Machine.
Holly has exerted a profound influence on many major rock bands since his death in 1959. The Rolling Stones' first hit was their cover of his "Not Fade Away." Eric Clapton has cited Holly as his first guitar hero. "I've got a theory about Buddy Holly," says English rocker-crooner Nick Lowe, who sings "Changing All Those Changes" on Rave On. "It's debatable when rock 'n' roll started, but for the purpose of my point, it was Jerry Lee [Lewis], Little Richard, Elvis — those guys. And Buddy Holly was in the crowd. In a way, he was the first fan of rock 'n' roll to get on with it and say 'I can do that.' I've got a feeling that's part of the reason he was so popular; people picked up on that." In fact, Holly even appeared as the opening act for his idol, Elvis.
Buddy Holly's youthful, fan-like spirit permeates the new tribute album. Paul McCartney's cover of "It's So Easy" is slower and grittier than Holly's original and seems to harken back in spirit, if not sound, to the Beatles' days as a bar band. McCartney has long been Holly's most famous and ardent fan, known for a tradition of holding Buddy Holly parties. McCartney's admiration comes through here in the multiple false endings, as though he can't quite bear to bring the fun to a close.
Some of today's most popular rock bands contribute tracks, such as My Morning Jacket's note-perfect cover of "True Love Ways." Modest Mouse strips Holly's biggest hit, "That'll Be the Day," down to a simple arrangement. Detroit's Kid Rock, meanwhile, goes the other direction, pumping up "Well All Right" into a gospel-like call-and-response.