Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Day the Music Died

Ever wonder what that song American Pie was all about?

Early that morning, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (J. P. Richardson) were killed when the plane they were on crashed en route to a gig in Fargo, North Dakota. Don McLean's famous 1971 ballad, "American Pie", contains many references to this day, including the phrase itself.

On February 2nd Buddy Holly chartered a Beechcraft Bonanza from Dwyer Flying Service to take him and his new Crickets band (Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings) to Fargo, North Dakota. Richardson came down with the flu and didn't feel comfortable on the bus, so Waylon gave his plane seat to him. Valens had never flown on a small plane and requested Allsup's seat. They flipped a coin, and Ritchie called heads and won the toss.

This reminds me of something I heard long ago when I paid a lot more attention to why aircraft fall out of the sky. Apparently, one thing many commercial plane crashes have in common is an unusually high number of passenger changes just before the flight. There will be a higher than normal number of people who cancel just before the flight, and also a higher than normal number who buy tickets or change from other flights to the doomed one just before the flight.

I don't remember now where I heard or read this, and I can't find anything on it on the Internet. I don't even know that it's true, though back then I was up on that sort of thing for professional reasons and am pretty sure it was true then. Anyway, it's stuck with me all these years because it is a bizarre and seemingly meaningless statistic. Why would something like this be a common denominator in aircraft crashes?

Sadly, Holly's flight conformed to this statistic. Rest in peace, gentlemen. We rock 'n rollers miss you.


Actually, this is what it's all about.

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