Buddy was way ahead of the pack

By Richard Hawley
The Independent, 23 January, 2009

I can’t remember being alive without hearing Buddy Holly. For me, it’s not music, it’s oxygen. My dad in Sheffield had all Holly’s albums and I used to listen to them as a kid. “Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues” was one of the first songs I learnt to sing or play, at six years old, along with “Words of Love,” “Everyday” and “That’ll Be the Day.”

For a young musician, all the Buddy Holly classics are a brilliant place to start. He played rhythmic chords in a lot of his solos, instead of over-flashy pyrotechnic guitar playing. There’s no doubt that he was innovative and ahead of his time. The recording technique that he used – multitracking – had only just been invented by Les Paul. Most people in those days would just record live, using justone microphone.

My favourite track is “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.” It is a very beautiful and sad song – but the chord structure is quite uplifting, and it has an amazing string section on it as well.

Right at the end of his life, Holly was moving away from simple rock’n’roll music to something far more complex, such as in the songs “Moondreams,” “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” and “Raining In My Heart.”

There’s an attitude towards things that Buddy Holly had, along with a lot of other artists who influenced me, including Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Fats Domino. This was to keep things simple, and not to over-egg the pudding. There was no messing around with them, as they went straight for the jugular.

The thing about Buddy Holly that was unique was that, because of the original name of the band, The Crickets, and the way they sounded in the song “That’ll Be the Day,” everybody thought they were black. He was the first white artist to play the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, and nobody could believe the band was white. There was a lot of racial and cultural cross-fertilization happening at this time, and Buddy Holly was way ahead of the pack.

Before him, artists didn’t write their own songs, and he was a complete holistic entity. He produced his own music, he performed it and he also wrote it. He was a brilliant songwriter; really simple, to the point, beautifully constructed two- or three-minute pop songs. That was a benchmark for bands such as The Beatles.

My kids enjoy the music as much as I do, and I am sure something in that music will appeal to the human race for ever, because its subject matter and delivery are so soulful. It’s something we all need to help us along.

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