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The facts are these: Just after 1 a.m. February 3, 1959, a three-passenger Beechcraft Bonanza went down about five miles northwest of Mason City Municipal Airport, near Clear Lake, Iowa. The plane crash took the lives of the pilot, Roger Peterson, and three musicians: Charles Hardin Holley, better known as Buddy Holly, 22; Ritchie Valens (originally Valenzuela), 17; and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, 28.
It has become famous, in Don McLean's "American Pie" formulation, as "the day the music died."
The event has echoed through rock 'n' roll history for 50 years, representing, if not the end of rock 'n' roll itself, the close of an era, the end of the first bloom of rock anarchy and innovation.
'The day the music died'?