Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A love so rare and true

I don't recall how the argument began. Maybe the song was on the radio, or we were discussing records & I mentioned the excellence of Holly's "20 Greatest Hits" album, or he dredged it up out of nowhere, but the older poet with the snobby taste in older jazz dissed "Peggy Sue." A perfect & perfectly harmless & beloved hit song of the Fifties. He hated "Peggy Sue." Didn't like the other Holly hits, either, including my fav, "Maybe Baby." But Peggy got the brunt, & the absurdity was that he had his reasons. You can dislike a song for no reason, I've always allowed that as reason enough. But no, he didn't like the simplicity, the child sing-along quality, the lyric, the drumming, Holly's hiccup singing & economical guitar playing, everything that made it a hit record. "For cripessake, it's just a folk song," I said. "Buddy pulled it out of the air." I explained that it sounds like it had always existed but no one had ever bothered to record it. How often does that happen? The song is a small miracle.

For all that poet knew & appreciated about jazz, I never trusted his opinions on music.

50 years ago today, Buddy, along with Richie Valens & The Big Bopper, died in a tragic & legendary plane crash in a snowy Iowa cornfield. We don't know what would have become of Buddy's career. But on the evidence, he would have had a long one, perhaps as a Brill Building songwriter with Carole King & Neil Sedaka when rock & roll went into eclipse for a few years, perhaps re-emerging to tour with his devotees, The Beatles or The Stones. Certainly, later in the Sixties, he could have become a huge country music star & a popular Vegas act. Even later dueting with Elvis Costello, Chrissie Hynde, Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Alison Krauss. Frank Sinatra. Who knows? Having located to Manhattan rather than Nashville, L.A., or Philly, he was looking for New York's sophistication, whatever that would have meant in his music. I'm not convinced it was the best thing for it; it might have polished him up, wrapped him in violins, cut him off from his roots, & turned him into a Bobby Darin type of musical changeling. There are box sets of his songs, but what matters is mainly what is on the album of 20 Greatest Hits, only a handful of which were actually "hits," but all of which are now classics.


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