The Buddy Holly Story

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Death does amazing things for a performers reputation. Had Gary Busey gone by the wayside after his swaggering confident performance as bespectacled 50’s hiccupping proto-nerd and Elvis Costello impersonator Buddy Holly, and before all the drugs, motorcycles, and religious awakenings, who knows how impressive his legend might have become. Sure, Jennifer Lopez was the bomb in Selena, but this is the all time greatest portrayal of a dead Rock star.

The Buddy Holly Story plays a little hard and fast with the truth, but it makes for a great myth, and most importantly gets the music absolutely right. Although Busey would have dwarfed the real Holly in size, the actors all play their own instruments and the vocal similarity between the two Lubbock boys is eerie.

Buddy Holly was the geeks rock star. He wore big black horned rim glasses, had a silly perm, and a goofy smile. He also had the audacity to threaten the subject of his first hit Thatll Be the day that If we ever part Ill leave you. Holly died in a tragic plane crash at the age of twenty two, but had by that time amassed a huge catalog of classic songs with styles ranging from pure the Rockabilly of Rave On, to the Bo Diddly beat of Not Fade Away, to the lump in the throat romance of

True Love Ways

. The Beatles took their name from a variant of Hollys Crickets and super fan Paul McCartney owns every piece of music he ever recorded.

Rashs film has great fun with the mistaken perception that Holly and the Crickets were black especially in the retelling of his breaking the color barrier at the previous all Black Apollo in Harlem. Well, we werent expecting you all either.  Although it my overstate Hollys command of the studio at the expense of real life collaborator Norman Petty, it probably doesnt do so by much. There is a joyful recreation of Hollys overdubbing techniques and a wonderful amused reaction by Busey in response to a studio violinists claim that Hollys song Raining in My Heart has striking similarities to Beethovans techniques. Try to forget for a moment that Hollys record label is run by Conrad Janis of Mork and Mindy fame, and enjoy the performances.

Aside from Hollys career, the film chronicles the singers whirlwind romance with Maria Elena Santiago, to whom he is said to have proposed to on their first date. Busey pulls off an awkward grace and humor in a wonderful scene where the singer asks Marias Aunt for courting permission as his alter ego Charles Hardin.

   

Accurate portrayals of 50’s Rockers as diverse as Sam Cooke and Eddie Cochran make the picture a joyous experience for true connoisseurs of the era. Until they get that epic version of The Big Boppers life and career off the table, this is still the best Rock and Roll biography ever filmed.

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