Buddy Holly: At 75, An Icon Gets A Star-Studded Tribute A new compilation features Holly songs performed by Paul McCartney, Patti Smith and many others. Weekend Edition Saturday speaks with producer Randall Poster and contributing artist Jenny O.
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Buddy Holly: At 75, An Icon Gets A Star-Studded Tribute

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Buddy Holly: At 75, An Icon Gets A Star-Studded Tribute

Buddy Holly: At 75, An Icon Gets A Star-Studded Tribute

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Nearly 75 years ago, a rock and roll legend was born in Lubbock, Texas - Charles Harden Holly, but most people just called him Buddy.


BUDDY HOLLY: (Singing) I'm a gonna tell you how it's gonna be. A you're gonna give a your love to me...

SIMON: Buddy Holly died just 22 years later in a plane crash that sometimes been called the day the music died. But Buddy Holly's music and his influence has lived on and inspired several generations of musicians, including 19 who perform in a new tribute CD that's out this week, "Rave On Buddy Holly."


FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE: (Singing) I'm gonna show you how it's gonna be. You're gonna give me your love to me. Love's gonna last more than one day. Love is love and not fade away. Love is love, not fade away. 'Cause love is love, not fade away.

SIMON: That's the British rock band Florence and the Machine performing the same song that Buddy Holly did - let's put it this way - their 2011 interpretation of it. Producer and Hollywood music supervisor Randall Poster brought them and 18 other music artists and bands together for the tribute album. And that number also includes the singer and songwriter Jenny O. So, we're pleased to be joined now by Randall Poster and Jenny O, who are in our studios at NPR West. Thanks so much for being with us.

RANDALL POSTER: Our pleasure.

JENNY O: Thank you.

SIMON: O: Really around age eight, age five, just on the radio and everywhere. And he's just a pure love songwriter, total bleeding heart.

SIMON: What about you, Mr. Poster?

POSTER: I think my first exposure was through the movie "American Graffiti." I think that was really the gatekeeper that brought me to Buddy Holly.

SIMON: You know, year in and year out I don't think there's a bigger name in music all over the world than Sir Paul McCartney. So, what happened when your people contacted his people?

POSTER: Well, Paul McCartney, you know, has been one of the most vocal and prominent fans of Buddy Holly's, and it was actually in conversation with the people who work at his publishing company that kind of spawned the idea. So, we started out with the great advantage of knowing that Sir Paul was going to make a contribution to the album.

SIMON: Well, let's listen.


PAUL MCCARTNEY: (Singing) It's so easy (it's so easy, it's so easy, it's so easy). It's so doggone easy (doggone easy, doggone easy, doggone easy). And it seems so easy (it's so easy, it's so easy, it's so easy), where you're concerned, my heart has learned, yeah. It's so easy to fall in love. Oh baby, it's so easy to fall in love...

SIMON: Sir Paul McCartney's rendition of "It's So Easy." Jenny O, when you hear Buddy Holly, what do you hear as a performer?

SIMON: It's a couple different things. In the music, it's his melodies, geometric, swirling melodies sometimes. And in his lyrics, which are so pure and unfiltered seeming, and sometimes it almost seem like they're bad lyrics. They're like the first rhyme that came to his mind or it's, you know, cliches but he owned them. My other thing with Buddy was just his performance is so honest and pure. And maybe it had to do with his age. He hadn't yet gotten to the point where he started questioning what he was saying or what he was doing, he was just going for it.

SIMON: Jenny O, let's listen, if we could, to your rendition of "I'm Gonna Love You Too."


SIMON: (Singing) You're gonna say you'll miss me, you're gonna say you'll kiss me, you're gonna say you love me, 'cause I'm a gonna love you too. I don't care what you don't need, you're gonna say you'll hold me, you're gonna say you'll love me, 'cause I'm a gonna love you too...

SIMON: Did you decide, unlike some other people we could mention on this album, to try and hit some of the same notes Buddy Holly did, some of the same techniques?

SIMON: Yeah, I think I chose that song, first of all, 'cause I was feeling that way that week. I wanted...

SIMON: Oh, did it work out?


SIMON: O: Yeah.

SIMON: Oh, you did? Good, good. OK. I was gonna say it's personal but since you volunteered, good. I'm happy for you both.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER No, well, I chose that song and then once I got into it I)

SIMON: I've read that your father had a collection of vintage records that he played for you.

SIMON: Well, yeah. My father was in a cover band and played all just Top 40 hits but from the '50s and '60s and '70s. So, that's the music I grew up on. I grew up musically as if it was the '60s, I think. I didn't really become aware of anything else until 2000.

SIMON: O: Yeah.

SIMON: O: Yeah.

SIMON: O: Someone took me off...


SIMON: O: I'm here now.

SIMON: O: Thank you.

SIMON: Mr. Poster, let's play a version of Buddy Holly's "That'll Be the Day" by the rock band Modest Mouse.


MODEST MOUSE: (Singing) Well, you gave me all your loving and all your turtle doving, all your hugs and kisses and your money too. Oh, you know you love me, baby, still you tell me maybe, that someday, well, I'll be through. That will be the day when you say goodbye. Yeah, that'll be the day when you make me cry. You say you're gonna leave me, but you know that's a lie, 'cause that'll be the day, the day that I die. Well, that'll be the day...

SIMON: Oh. This strays a little bit from the feel of Buddy Holly, doesn't it?

POSTER: Yeah, it does.

SIMON: Well, I shouldn't say stray. It's a deliberate course, I'm sure.

POSTER: Yeah. I mean, I think the artists really brought themselves into the process. So, there was a bit of musical alchemy that tended to happen where the songs filtered through the artists' personas. And I know through the process, it wasn't about, OK, how does this one go and the songs bear both the Buddy imprint as well as the particular artists' imprint.

SIMON: It is astonishing, almost disorienting, to recall - we're talking about a musical legacy that endures for decades after lasting only 18 months.

POSTER: You know, when you talk about some of these songs, there are people who think these songs belong to different generations of artists. I mean, we had "Not Fade Away" that certainly people would think it's one of their favorite Rolling Stones songs or their favorite Grateful Dead song and maybe now some people will think it's their favorite Florence and the Machine song. But Paul McCartney, if you think about it, he'd probably been playing "It's So Easy" for 50 years. And clearly, you see how much he enjoys playing it. I think that there is probably nothing more, no greater evidence to its greatest by virtue of the fact that you can still have fun playing it all these years later.

SIMON: Mr. Poster, you work as a music supervisor in movies, right?


SIMON: So, like, if you want a scene to open in 1955, is there any better way to do that than to have eight bars of Buddy Holly playing on a car radio?

POSTER: You know, it's funny you ask that question and I find it hard to answer because I think that for me right now it's just so time transcendent that I probably would place him in any decade, probably to the consternation of some of the directors that I'm working with.

SIMON: Randall Poster has produced "Rave On Buddy Holly," a new tribute album in honor of Buddy Holly's 75th birthday. Among the artists featured, of course, are Sir Paul McCartney, Modest Mouse and Jenny O, who also joined us from NPR West. Thanks so much.

POSTER: O: Thank you.


JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE: (Singing) I'll have feelings for. Maybe, baby, you'll be truly loved. Maybe baby, I'll have you someday...

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