Rave On Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly lived 22 short years and his recording success only took off 18 months before his death. Despite the limited time he was given Holly’s effect on the world of rock and roll is astounding. His music influenced a generation of kids who would establish rock as the dominant cultural force of the 1960s and ‘70s, including The Beatles who would copy Holly’s love of happy melodies and bright love-drenched lyrics. But it wasn’t just the joyful sound of his music that attracted younger artists to Holly. It was the rebel spirit of the young man who would be one of the first musicians to arrange and produce his own music. At the time of his death Holly was planning his own record label.

In the five decades since Holly’s death on February 3rd, 1959, countless tributes have offered various renditions of his catalog. As the 75th anniversary of Holly’s birth approaches - September 9th – another tribute featuring 19 of Holly’s best known songs arrives. Rave On Buddy Holly hosts an eclectic line-up of musicians, some offering traditional versions of his songs, while others embraces Holly’s music in their own unique fashion.

Beginning with the faithful arrangements, Fiona Apple & Jon Brion’s cover of “Everyday” finds the duo mimicking Holly’s hic-up vocals and Benmont Tench playing the celeste with it’s bell-like chimes. Cee Lo Green mostly sticks to the script with additional percussion. Jenny O.’s take on “I’m Gonna Love You” also features the singer following Holly’s signature phrasing. Nick Lowe manages to capture the big Texas twang of Holly’s roots on “Changing All Those Changes.” My Morning Jacket’s “True Love Ways” manages to capture the composer’s country music foundation. She and Him, featuring singer Zooey Deschanel and guitarist M. Ward, have been covering old songs on their albums so it’s no great leap for them to cover “Oh Boy.”

Now for the untraditional beginning with the opening track by The Black Keys. “Dearest” is done in a rather subdued fashion for the duo but still it doesn’t sound like anything Holly ever recorded. Florence and the Machine’s take on “Not Fade Away” is a mix of New Orlean’s jazz – think tuba and horns – and alternative pop. Patti Smith does a down-beat version of “Words of Love” with lots of her own spoken word included. Lou Reed adds heavy droning guitar to “Peggy Sue” while John Doe follows up with a dreamily-sad account of “Peggy Sue Got Married.” Modest Mouse turns “That’ll Be the Day” on its head by changing the melody while keeping the lyrics. Paul McCartney adds distortion and Little Richard-inspired inprovisations to a hard-edged take of “It’s So Easy.” Randall Poster oversaw the project but most artists used their own producers. Whether you enjoy Rave On Buddy Holly will be determined by your reactions to these interpretations, and you can always go back to the originals if your prefer. With Mr. Holly’s music you can never go wrong.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix Host)