Buddy Holly is among a handful of artists responsible for nearly everything we call rock 'n' roll. The man was barely a man by today's legal standards when he built the original power trio, the Crickets, and at 19, he first topped the charts with "That'll Be the Day." He could've turned 75 today, had he not chartered an airplane to fly him, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper to Moorhead, Minnesota. Holly was only 22 when he died on February 22, 1959.
Holly's songs were simple enough that anyone could play them, popular enough to usher out the big-band era, and honest enough lyricwise to be stuck in America's head for more than 50 years. The coolest thing about Buddy was how uncool he looked. Elvis, Fabian, and Frankie Avalon were hunky dreamboats who shimmered and sweated glitter. Whereas, Holly's oversized glasses and dollar haircut inspired Average Joes to buy Stratocasters and start garage bands.
Not only did his image influence hundreds of teens into thinking they could be rock stars but his clever hooks and solid strumming inspired the Beatles, the Stones, Dylan, Bruce, and even Elton John to get off their asses and rave on. Since his timeline was so short, we have a wonderful snapshot of a genius just getting started. We wonder if he would've continued setting trends or if he would've just kept on rockin' his own damned way.
Buddy Holly's influence on music will live forever. Let's honor his memory and celebrate his 75th birthday by enjoying some kick-ass covers of some of his greatest rippers. We wish we could've lived in a world where "Peggy Sue" was brand new.
"Words of Love" Covered by the Beatles
This song features the signature I-IV-V chord progression that sticks like bubblegum. The Beatles do little to mess with the original.
"Dearest" Covered by the Black Keys
There was always something a little country about Buddy. On this take, the Black Keys take Holly's lonesome cover and leave it stranded it in the desert. You can hear the tumbleweeds tumblin' by the sun-bleached cow skulls.
"Rave On" Covered by the Real Kids
To play Buddy Holly punk rock, Boston's the Real Kids just turned up the volume a couple of notches and increased the tempo a hair.
"Not Fade Away" Covered by the Rolling Stones
The Stones took Holly's take on the Bo Diddley beat, grabbed some maracas, and made it all the more dandy.
"Peggy Sue" Covered by John Lennon
Once again, Lennon doesn't dare mess with the original. This is a wonderful, note-for-note, hiccup-for-hiccup cover of the cutest song for the cutest girl Holly ever saw.
BONUS! "That'll Be the Day" Covered by Gary Busey
Buddy Holly's music is so powerful, it makes Gary Busey seem like he isn't super crazy or high on a cocktail of peyote and PCP.