Clearly, Buddy Holly has had a lasting and profound influence on several generations of songwriters. From The Beatles to Bob Dylan to Blink 182. It's hard to fathom that the musical based on his life, has now been running longer than the man's actual lifetime (twenty-two years)!
To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Holly's death (February 3rd 1959), there's bound to be a plethora of new books released this year, and Not Fade Away – The Life and Music of Buddy Holly is the first I've seen thus far. Written by John Gribbin (who trained as an astrophysicist at Cambridge before becoming a full-time science writer), it's evident from the outset, that music is not a medium with which he is normally associated, nor used to writing about. But rather than hinder the reader's understanding and enjoyment of the subject at hand, the writer's evident adoration for Holly is both paramount and endearing throughout.
As such, this book reads like it's been written by a fan, which the author admits to having been since the age of twelve. So rather than analyse, Gribbin reflects, and where many wrtiers might feel the occasional acerbic need to substantiate their rhetoric, Gribbin merely writes as if he's writing about a favourite aunt or a family member; which, to a certain degree, is understandable. For instance, I know of people who think of Bruce Springsteen as the brother they never had, although quite where the likes of Cradle Of Filth fit into this equation, is anyones' guess.
One of the more enjoyable facets about Not Fade Away, is the espousal of historical reference and information. Writing in the chapter 'Learning The Game,' the author states: ''From May 31 to 20 June 1956, the western The Searchers, directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne, was the main movie attraction in Lubbock. Buddy, Sonny Curtis and Jerry Allison watched it together, and picked up the phrase used repeatedly in the movie by the John Wayne character to express his determination to overcome obstacles [...]. Whenever someone suggests he isn't tough enough to deal with a problem and ought to give up, he growls, 'That'll be the day.' The phrase became part of the trio's everyday language [...].'' Not to mention part of rock'n'roll folklore...
Such snippets are interestingly scattered throughout this essentially innocuous book.
My only gripe is Gribbin's unnecessary compulsion to inexorably prove Holly's greatness - especially in relation to The Beatles during the final chapter. This aside, it's a worthy celebration of the Texan songwriter's life.
Not Fade Away – The Life and Music of Buddy Holly
By John Gribbin
Icon Books – £12.99