Alanna Nash
October 18, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly

Current Status
In Season
Philip Norman
Biography, Music

We gave it a B-

Buddy Holly’s 1959 death in a plane crash at the age of 22 made him one of the first white rock & roll stars to die tragically and assume a heady place in popular culture. In Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly, the second comprehensive Holly tome (after 1987’s Remembering Buddy, by John Goldrosen and John Beecher), Philip Norman — a British journalist and the author of 11 other rock biographies (Shout!, Symphony for the Devil) — manages to get Holly’s reticent widow, Maria Elena, to talk. He also supplies terrific background on Holly’s Bible-thumping snake of a manager/producer, Norman Petty, tracing exactly how Petty cheated Holly out of his writing credits and royalties. But Norman’s tone is more that of an obsessive fan than an analytical biographer: After describing a photograph of the dead rocker sprawled amid the plane wreckage, he adds, ”I remember those lighthearted words of his very first hit, ‘That’ll be the day…when I die.”’ And I remember when an editor would have whipped a sentence like that into professional prose. B-

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