But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn’t take one more step.
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.
—Don McLean, “American Pie”
On the morning of 3 February 1959, America woke up to the dreadful news that three of its most beloved performers, Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens, along with the pilot, Roger Peterson, had perished in a plane crash.
Two of these musicians, J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens “won” their seats and were never meant to be on that plane. The musicians who gave up their seats, Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings (Buddy Holly’s “Crickets”), had very lucky escapes. With Venus opposite Pluto in the chart of the crash, the victims of the crash notably left behind loved ones: Peterson was newly married, Valens, the youngest victim, had a sweetheart named Donna and The Big Bopper left behind his pregnant wife and young child. Holly also left behind a pregnant wife who subsequently miscarried due to the shock of hearing of his death via a radio announcement. And yet, out of this terrible tragedy, a young newspaper delivery boy, Don McLean, would immortalize “The Day the Music Died” in his classic song, “American Pie.”
As we all know “fate” played a cruel hand that night: the careers of three beloved musicians and a pilot came to a tragic end. Was it all meant to be? We’re all left throwing our hands up and asking “what if?” You might think “if only the pilot was more experienced” or “if only it wasn’t snowing that night” or “if only the coin landed tails-side up” then we’d still have Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens around. The problem with fate is that trying to understand how it works is like trying to catch a little fish with your bare hands. You stalk it for hours, think you catch it unawares and then just as you go for the kill, it swims away so quickly that you are left in no doubt that it knew you were there all along. Astrology offers a much better solution.
What can you say when the plane crash has Mars conjunct the malevolent third eye of Medusa’s severed head? It’s fair to say that this conjunction happens every couple of years but this event, this plane crash that has embedded itself deeply into the American psyche, is not just any random event. Add to it that the coroner had stated that the cause of all four deaths was “gross trauma to the brain” and there’s a story. With his Sun at 1 degree Sagittarius, Allsup had a close-but-no-cigar opposition. Jennings also had a near opposition with his Mercury at 2 degrees Sagittarius. One of the singers who would replace the ones killed in the crash, Bobby Vee, also had a near miss with his Mercury at 0 degrees Gemini. However, Valens had Uranus conjunct Algol within one degree and the pilot, Roger Peterson, had Mars in opposition which deepens the significance. Neither Holly nor The Big Bopper had Algol contacts but perhaps just being in the plane flown by Peterson and in attendance with Valens were enough! DiMucci had no Algol contacts but his role in the tragedy is somewhat unclear.
When “American Pie” was recorded byMcLeanon 26 May 1971, Saturn was also conjunct the Mars/Algol of the plane crash, perhaps signifying the permanent memory of the tragedy through the song.
Though it is disputed, Dion DiMucci insists he was offered a seat on that plane. His version of the event is that Holly booked plane tickets for the headliners of the tour. Or, in other words, for himself and Buddy.
However, when he found out the plane tickets cost $36, DiMucci turned down the offer because he had grown up listening to his parents squabbling over their rent which came to exactly $36–he felt it was an indulgence he could not afford. Natally, DiMucci had Moon conjunct Saturn so issues of wealth (or lack of it) may well have saved his life. The Big Bopper had “won” DiMucci’s seat in a coin toss.
In the days leading up to the plane crash, the musicians had been traveling on a “Winter Dance Party” tour which had begun on 23 January and was scheduled to end on 15 February 1959. The idea was that the assembled musicians would play a concert every night in a different city. Although it may sound exciting on paper, the musicians quickly understood the realities surrounding such a tour were very different: the tour was grueling. For starters, they would travel between venues on an old bus that criss-crossed the mid-West in a completely haphazard fashion. It was only after the tour was booked that the musicians realized that the sheer distance between venues meant they would be spending a lot of time on that bus. With the temperature reaching -32 degrees centigrade, the musicians also realized that their bus was very ill-equipped for its purpose—it had broken down several times leaving them with nothing to do in the middle of nowhere, often in the middle of the night, in deep snow. Then the bus heater completely broke down. It was so cold on that bus that by the second week of the tour, Carl Bunch, the drummer of the tour, had to be hospitalized for severe frost bite to his feet. (In his absence, Holly, Valens and DiMucci took turns drumming.) Several of the tour members had also developed raging colds, including The Big Bopper and Valens. Who can blame anyone who is ill for trading their freezing seats on a dilapidated bus for a 380 mile (610 km) journey for a much shorter journey on a warm plane with the added benefit of a night in a hotel?
With various accounts and the added problem of history playing tricks on the human mind, it is difficult to ascertain who flipped coins. Having looked at all the conflicting version of events, the author is going on the notion that there were two coin tosses: one between The Big Bopper and Waylon Jennings and the other between Tommy Allsup and Ritchie Valens.
With his descendant in Pisces, Jennings may have been a soft touch for the suffering. With or without a coin toss, he took pity on The Big Bopper and lost his seat on the plane. The Big Bopper, with his Moon/Venus conjunction trine Mars and his Jupiter-Pluto conjunction as the apex of a T-Square between his Sun and Uranus was a big personality. We may even surmise that he tended to act compulsively and liked to take risks.
Interestingly, the MC of the plane crash opposes The Big Bopper’s MC, some how linking the “life direction” of the two events. It doesn’t mean much until one considers that The Big Bopper’s unborn son grew up to be a man who became curious about rumours surrounding his father’s death. The Big Bopper’s body had been recovered some distance away from the crash site. As Holly’s gun had also been found near the crash site, could it be possible The Big Bopper was shot first and then staggered out of the crash only to freeze to death in the snow?
To answer the question, The Big Bopper’s body was exhumed in 2007 just as a Neptune-Mercury conjunction passed over the Chiron of the crash chart and The Big Bopper’s MC and transit Chiron was also passing over the Sun of the crash chart. It was a time for the “ultimate” question to be answered: was this a mundane plane crash or a murder mystery rather? The little Big Bopper was disappointed to learn his father died of injuries consistent with a high speed plane crash. Even so, there can’t be too many people who meet their fathers for the first time nearly fifty years after they have died.
Holly had been annoyed that Jennings had given up his seat on the plane after he went through so much trouble to book it. A throw-away comment by Jennings to Holly was the last they said to each other.
“Well, I hope your old bus freezes up,” Holly said to Jennings.
“I hope your old plane crashes,” he retorted.
On the night of the crash, Jennings’ Mercury had been opposed to transit Jupiter. He never forgave himself for his flippant and irresponsible remark.
By contrast, Valens was terrified of flying. On 31 January 1957, whilst Valens attended his grandfather’s funeral, two jet planes collided over his school, killing three of his classmates and injuring over seventy. That fateful night on 2 February 1959, at the encouragement of his management (who feared Valens would be too ill to perform if he endured another night on the bus), he reluctantly asked Allsup if he would flip a coin. Allsup’s Chiron was conjunct Valens’ Saturn. Although he too had a narrow escape, like Jennings, Allsup could never get over winning the coin toss.
Unfortunately for Roger Peterson, his role as the pilot of the plane that killed The Music means that his destiny is enfolded with the destiny of the USA. An investigation revealed that the plane crashed due to pilot error. However, at 21 years of age, Peterson was inexperienced and not qualified to fly a plane by instrument alone. He was also known to panic when his visual perceptions were disturbed, making him an extremely poor choice for flying in a blizzard. In addition to aforementioned Algol contacts, his Jupiter was conjunct the Pluto of the Sibley chart.
Of course we can’t blame Don McLean for the tragedy itself but we can blame him for immortalizing it through a song. McLeanwas a 14 year old newspaper delivery boy who had the dubious task of delivering the news of the plane crash. The MC of the plane crash is conjunctMcLean’s Moon with Chiron in opposition. “American Pie” was recorded on 26 May 1971 with Uranus transitingMcLean’s Sun and Chiron conjunction. So here we have a young man re-living a childhood tragedy through song. It’s a catchy little number heralded as an American classic, no doubt aided by McLean’s Mars being highlighted by the Sun of the Sibley chart.
McLean’s Sun is opposed the Jupiter-Neptune conjunction of the song’s recording. “American Pie” is loaded with cryptic cultural references which have been a source of conjecture ever since the song was released.
“But what do the lyrics mean?” McLeanwas asked.
“It means I never have to work again,” McLean answered.
Although he has always been evasive of the meaning of the lyrics, he did confirm he exorcised his long running grief over the death of his idol Buddy Holly during commemorations of the fiftieth anniversary of the accident which occurred as Neptune and Chiron opposed his natal Moon. So who would dare tamper with a man’s masterpiece that so encapsulates the grief of the nation?
We can’t blame Madonna for the tragedy of the plane crash—but with the manner in which she was villified by the public for tampering with a classic, one could be forgiven for thinking so. Although some people blame her for the ensuing tragedy of her cover version of “American Pie,” the cover version was released just short of the original’s Saturn return.
Madonna’s version was notably shorter thanMcLean’s as demonstrated by the Saturn of the second recording conjunct the Mercury of the first. Her rendition was dismissed as “sub-karaoke fluff” by critics who added they were grateful she didn’t bother recording the whole thing.
Worse than the song (according to critics) was the subsequent video which featured a diverse array of Americans, including a lesbian couple kissing. “My God, what is this woman doing to our song?” was the collective cry as transit Mars passed over the Chiron of the original song. It was a bit too much for anyone who wasn’t aware that Venus was conjunct Uranus on the day the song was released which in turn was conjunct the North Node of the original. However, McLeancalled Madonna’s version “a gift from a goddess”. With their Sun and Moon in conjunction, perhaps they were enthralled with each other. Or it could be that Madonna’s ascendant conjunct his Venus made him particularly happy.
Ker-China! That would be the sound of Don McLean cashing in on nearly a million pounds for finally revealing the “secrets” of the lyrics for “The Day the Music Died.” With Jupiter stationing on his natal Pluto at the time that’s not bad going!
By star sign, Buddy Holly was a Virgo, a sign known for its love of cleanliness. On the last day of his life, he was upset because the launderette in Clear Lake Iowa was closed and he had no remaining clean socks. If he hadn’t been bothered by his dirty clothes, there never would have been a plane crash and we may still have a geriatric trio burning up the airwaves. Or, maybe not. Perhaps their legacy was enhanced by their tragic ends. Holly also had his Sun conjunct Neptune so perhaps his death was a necessary sacrifice in the world of rock-n-roll.
Either way, one can’t help but wonder what may have been if Buddy Holly had just accepted that he had to wear dirty socks.
An audio recording of “The Day the Music Died” can be found here (recording 962)
Have a question about astrology? Why not get in touch? Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you!