This is the thirty-fourth in a series of examinations of music legends and whether they are true or false.
Click here to view an archive of the previous music urban legends.
MUSIC LEGEND: Before saying goodbye for the last time before Buddy Holly died in a plane crash, Waylon Jennings told Holly that he hoped his plane crashes.
Reader Ed R. asked me recently:
I read online today that before Buddy Holly’s fateful plane crash, Holly told Waylon Jennings that he hoped his “ol’ bus freezes up,” to which Jennings replied, “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes.”
Do you know if there’s any truth to that legend?
Strangely enough, yes, Ed.
Before he passed away in 2002 at the age of 64, Waylon Jennings put together a remarkable musical career, winning numerous country music awards.
But in the late 1950s, while he was in his early 20s, Jennings was a member of Buddy Holly’s back-up group, (Holly’s original backing band, the Crickets, decided to split from Holly, so Holly had put together a brand new backing group consisting of guitarist Tommy Allsup and drummer Carl “Goose” Bunch). Jennings joined the group for a tour of the Midwest in 1959.
Waylon is on the left in the picture above.
The “Winter Dance Party Tour” also included singer Richie Valens, singer Jay “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Dion and the Belmonts. The bands traveled by bus, and not exactly a fancy bus, either, as one of the buses was so pathetic that Bunch actually developed frostbite while on the bus!!! Valens and a member of the Belmonts had to play drums while Bunch recovered in the hospital!
When a new tour date was added, Holly was frustrated enough to look into chartering a plane. The plane had room for three passengers, Holly and his two remaining bandmates. However, individually, both Jennings and Alssup gave up their seats to Richardson and Valens, respectively.
As you well know, the plane crashed on February 3, 1959, killing all three passengers and the pilot.
And apparently, according to Jennings, and I don’t know why he would make something like this up, when Holly went off to catch the plane, he joked to Jennings that he hoped that their bus froze, and Jennings retorted that he hoped Holly’s plane crashed.
Jennings later recalled:
I was so afraid for many years that somebody was going to find out I said that. Somehow I blamed myself. Compounding that was the guilty feeling that I was still alive. I hadn’t contributed anything to the world at that time compared to Buddy. Why would he die and not me? It took a long time to figure that out, and it brought about some big changes in my life – the way I thought about things.
So there you go, Ed!
Thanks to Ed for the suggestion and thanks to Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair’s book, Serpents in the Garden: Liaisons With Culture & Sex (Counterpunch Anthology), for the great quote from Jennings!
MUSIC LEGEND: Outkast was sued by Rosa Parks for a song named after her.
Outkast is one of the most successful hip hop groups of all time, managing to balance commercial success with critical acclaim, as well, including winning the Grammy Award for Best Album of the Year in 2004 for their novel release Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (where the two members of the group, Andre 3000 and Big Boi, each did a solo album and then released them together as a group double album).
Their 1998 hit album Aquemi featured a song called “Rosa Parks”…
The song was the biggest hit off of the album.
Rosa Parks, of course, is the civil rights icon who made history by being arrested after refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger in 1955. Her actions sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and was a major event in the pursuit of equal rights for African-Americans in the United States.
The intent of the song is to demonstrate how, like Parks changed the world of civil rights, Outkast was changing the world of hip hop. The only part of the song that actually refers to Parks is the chorus, which goes “Ah ha, hush that fuss / Everybody move to the back of the bus / Do you want to bump and slump with us / We the type of people make the club get crunk.”
It is certainly a bit iffy to draw comparisons between being influential hip hop artists and being a civil rights icon, but in any event, the guys clearly intended the song as an homage (if a bizarre one) to Parks.
However, in 1999, Parks (through her legal representatives) filed a lawsuit against Outkast and their record label – Rosa Parks v. LaFace Records.
The theory behind the suit was that the group used Parks’ name without her permission in a song that was objectionable to her and caused damage to her public reputation (the song contained profanity). The case was a very interesting intellectual property case. As you might well know, pretty much anyone can write a song ABOUT someone (even there, of course, you can run afoul of stuff like libel), but that was the key here – as I noted before, the song really was not ABOUT Rosa Parks. However, it still was TITLED “Rosa Parks,” so the theory was that they were merely trading on the fame of her name, and if THAT is the case, then yes, she has rights to protect the use of her famous name.
Still, at each level, Outkast was winning. However, the higher courts kept accepting the case on appeals, so the case continued for a number of years. As the case dragged on, Parks’ family began to believe that her lawyers were more concerned about their legal fees then what Parks herself wanted (she was in her late 80s and suffering from dementia).
In October of 2004, a judge named former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer the overseer of Parks’ legal affairs, and in early 2005 the case was finally settled. Outkast admitted no wrongdoing, but paid Parks a monetary settlement and agreed to do some work with the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.
Parks passed away in October of 2005 at the age of 92.
MUSIC LEGEND: American Idol’s parent company and/or Simon Cowell owns the publishing rights to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Leonard Cohen’s song, “Hallelujah,” off of his 1984 album, Various Positions, was not exactly a hit right away.
Artist John Cale recorded the song in 1991 for a Leonard Cohen cover album. It was Cale’s version that inspired singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley to cover the song for his 1994 album, Grace.
Buckley’s version was well-received, critically, but it was not exactly an instant hit. In fact, at the time of Buckley’s death, the song was not nearly as popular as it soon would become as it began to be covered by other artists (most notably by singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright) and used in a number of films and television shows.
One television show, in particular, who uses the show frequently, is American Idol.
In 2008, contestant Jason Castro did a version of the song popular enough that it got Buckley’s version back into the list of top downloads in the country!
Castro put the song on his debut album.
In 2010, the song was used TWICE on the show! Early in the season, contestant Tim Urban used it, and later in the season, Simon Cowell chose the song for contestant Lee DeWyze to sing. DeWyze would eventually win the 2010 American Idol contest.
Meanwhile, over in England, in 2008, Cowell’s OTHER show, The X-Factor, saw its 2008 winner, Alexandra Burke, ALSO do a version of the song, breaking sales records with her single of the tune (and being “honored” with having the “Christmas single,” the British tradition of singling out the song that is #1 on the charts on Christmas Day – Burke won despite a campaign to get Buckley’s version back on to the chart as a sort of protest against X-Factor. Burke ultimately won out, but Buckley’s version did end up #2 on the charts).
In addition, Il Divo, ANOTHER group of Cowell’s, ALSO recorded the song.
All of this Cowell involvement in the song led to an interesting rumor in early 2010 that Cowell, or the company behind American Idol, had acquired the publishing rights to “Hallelujah,” which is why they were promoting the song so much.
This, however, is not true. The publishing rights are owned by Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Still, if an artist from Cowell’s record company has a hit with the song, obviously he makes money off the song THAT way, but that’s just straightforward music stuff, not some secret conspiracy where he secretly owns the rights to the song.
Thanks to Entertainment Weekly’s Michael Slezak, for the information on this one!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: "Hallelujah", Alexandra Burke, American Idol, Andre 3000, Big Boi, Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, Dion and the Belmonts, Goose Bunch, Grace, Il Divo, Jason Castro, Jeff Buckley, Lee DeWyze, Leonard Cohen, Outkast, Richie Valens, Rosa Parks, Rufus Wainwright, Simon Cowell, Tim Urban, Tommy Allsup, Various Positions, Waylon Jennings