This story was originally posted on the Orange County Register Web site on Monday, Feb. 2, 2009.
Although Buddy Holly's impact on rock was seemingly immortalized by Don McLean as "The day the music died" in 1971's "American Pie," there has been mostly silence from the rock community in connection with the upcoming 50th anniversary of his death.
The notable exception is Smithereens lead singer Pat DiNizio (seen in the photo here), who released his 11-song "Pat DiNizio/Buddy Holly" tribute to early rock's most influential songwriter on Jan. 27, 2009.
And while the Smithereens are known for a Beatles meets A/C blend approach where melodic songs are layered amid crunchy guitars on cuts such as "Blood and Roses," "Only a Memory" and "A Girl Like You," DiNizio's tribute to Holly features mostly his voice and acoustic guitar set against artful new string arrangements delivered by the Encore Chamber String Quartet.
"I wanted to make the album you wouldn't expect me to make; people were expecting a straight-up rock 'n' roll album, you know what I mean? That would have been the easy route," DiNizio explained in a phone interview conducted on Friday, Jan. 30, 2009.
"This was a little more difficult, a little more thought-provoking, and a little more emotional and the sort of album Buddy might have done himself at this time (2009)."
Holly was only 22 when he was killed in a single-engine plane crash early on the morning of Feb. 3, 1959. Also killed in the crash were Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and 21-year-old pilot Roger Peterson. The three artists had performed just hours earlier at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.
"I wanted to let the world know that without Buddy there might not have been the Beatles, and without the Beatles there wouldn't be much of anything else that we love," DiNizio said.
Although Holly's success only lasted about 18 months, he had a profound impact on those who followed. An original songwriter with a distinctive style of singing and equally innovative style of playing rhythm and lead guitar, the Texas rocker influenced the Fab Four, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, among many others. Indeed, a young Dylan attended a Holly concert on Jan. 31, 1959.
"I am shocked frankly that I am the only one to put out a tribute (this year)," said DiNizio, noted that in the week leading up to the anniversary much more was being made about Bruce Springsteen's upcoming performance at the Super Bowl than a serious reflection on Holly's contributions.
"The Super Bowl means nothing (in the big historical picture). God bless Bruce, he's a great guy, but it's (just) another album," DiNizio said of Springsteen's "Working on a Dream," released on the same date of his Holly tribute.
"I'm really shocked that Bruce put this album out on the 50th anniversary. With me, it's totally appropriate, because it's the right thing to do on the 50th anniversary and put it out on the 50th anniversary, not six months later, but on the date. I'm absolutely shocked that nobody (else) has done anything."
For his part, DiNizio has clearly let his love for Holly's legacy provide a fitting gift for fans of Holly, and DiNizio. Highlights include a reworked "Raining in My Heart" that captures the theme of loss vividly, an a cappella approach on the doo wop-styled "That'll Be The Day" and this writer's favorite, a haunting "Well Alright" where DiNizio's rich baritone is used to pull new emotions out of the Holly classic.
DiNizio is encouraged that a number of activities set in Clear Lake, including a sold-out concert at the Surf Ballroom where Holly gave his final concert on Feb. 2, 1959, are have drawn people from around the world to venture to the small town in northern Iowa to honor the fallen rocker.
"Hopefully it will be a celebration, it won't be a funeral," DiNizio said of events in Clear Lake in connection with the anniversary. "My record is a celebration of the life of Buddy. That's really what it is."