As the 1960s come to a close, we find the narrator nostalgic for the music of his youth and the simple, joyous spirit it once brought him. He then turns his attention to a seminal event—the death of some key figure in music history—that shattered his joy. It is well known by now that Buddy Holly is this individual, having died in a plane crash in February of 1959.
• • •
Though this is by far the simplest verse in American
it is nonetheless a crucial one (along with verse 2), as it sets up the
drama that is about to unfold. The narrator here is nostalgic for a simpler
and more optimistic kind of music—a music that can make people
smile, and that could help them forget their troubles—and a music
that very much represents the happier optimism of the 1950s in America.
He also identifies Buddy Holly by the month of his death (February) and
bride" he left behind. As the embodiment of this music, Holly's
passing had a profound effect on him: as it will become clearer in the
next verse, this music and the simple innocence and optimism of it has
its corollary in the psychology of America in the fifties, so that the
day the music died becomes the day the innocence and optimism died—blow
number one. Holly's death was a watershed for him, and is the pivot around
which the song will turn.