Don McLean called February 3, 1959 "the day the music died."

The end of this week marks the sixtieth anniversary of the plane crash that took the lives of three of rock and roll's earliest rising stars, and, many would argue, forever altered the course of popular music.

Most prominent among them was Charles "Buddy" Holly, a Texas native who forged a unique and influential sound from a blending of rockabilly, country and indigenous Texas styles. Holly was a major influence on the next generation of rockers, including  the Beatles (who named their band as a tribute to Holly's group, the Crickets) and Bob Dylan.

The plane went down shortly after takeoff following an appearance by Holly at the "Winter Dance Party" in Clear Lake, Iowa, en route to Fargo/Moorhead.

Killed in the crash were Holly, along with the pilot and two other stars: J.P. Richardson, aka "The Big Bopper," singer of the hit Chantilly Lace, and writer of some country/pop hits; and Richie Valens, considered a ground-breaker among Hispanic musicians, whose hits included a rocking version of the Mexican folk song, La Bamba.

This year as every year, Holly fans of all ages will gather the night of the anniversary at the Surf Ballroom, the site of Holly's last live performance, for a night of music and celebration.

[Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune]