do you remember where you were on that sad day in 1959?

We tend to remember where we were when we heard the bad news:

  1. Pearl Harbor
  2. Kennedy Assassination
  3. 9/11 Attacks

I wasn’t born yet when Pearl Harbor was attacked, but I definitely know where I was when I first heard about the other two. We seem to be built that way, considering where we were as almost important to us as the bad news.

So yes, I know where I was in 1959 when the breaking network news carried the story of two Native Americans from opposing tribes who drowned when they jumped into a raging river to be together because their love was as big as the sky. I was with my high school band marching in the Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival parade.

“The Big Bopper” (Jiles Perry Richardson) wrote the song, but he decided it didn’t fit his rockabilly style, so he gave it to Johnny Preston who recorded it after “the music died” in a February 3, 1959 plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa cornfield at 1:00 a.m. CST that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and Richardson. The news was seemingly ubiquitous, though I don’t know where I was when I heard first this tragic story. How some people ended up on the plane and others didn’t was, many thought, a twisted example of fate.

So much time has passed, that more people probably know where they were the first time they heard Don McLean’s 1971 song “American Pie” which coined the phrase “when the music died.” The song, at 8 and 1/2 minutes in length, was about the longest one any of us remembered hearing on the radio. I was in a hospital bed in Illinois with mono when the song came out and, frankly, thought I was hallucinating.

As for “Running Bear,” I doubt many people remember his love for Little White Dove these days. The odd thing for me is that I remember the song from the beginning rather than after it appeared in the 1994 Steve Martin movie “A Simple Twist of Fate,” though, that title seems to sum up everything else here.