On his 75th birthday, we look back at rock ‘n’ roll star Eddie Cochran’s short life but long legacy.
The year before Eddie Cochran’s death, he had a premonition that his life would soon end.
In 1959 the pioneering rocker was only 20 years old, but he was already a star. His rockabilly-tinged singles were popular with radio listeners, and he was busy experimenting with new music production techniques like overdubbing and multitrack recording. He had scored his first hit, “Sittin’ in the Balcony,” two years earlier.
As he rose to the top of the charts, Cochran, who was born 75 years ago today, counted among his friends and colleagues some of the superstars of early rock – Gene Vincent, Skeets McDonald, Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly. And then the unthinkable happened. On Feb. 3, 1959, Holly and Valens, along with The Big Bopper, were killed in a plane crash while on tour. We know the tragedy as “The Day the Music Died,” but for Cochran it was a deeply personal loss, one that left him shaken and scared.
The day after the tragedy, Cochran recorded “Three Stars” as a tribute to his friends. He reportedly had trouble getting through the spoken-word interludes, particularly the segment in which he talks directly to Holly.
After making the tribute, Cochran had a premonition that he too was headed for an early death. He vowed to cut back on touring and spend more time in the studio and for a time, he did. In the year after his friends’ deaths he released several hits, including “Somethin’ Else.”
But touring was a crucial part of a 1950s rocker’s life. Cochran needed to play at least a few live dates in order to bring in money to continue recording. So he accepted an offer to tour the U.K. On April 17, 1960, while riding in a cab with his fiancée, Sharon Sheeley, and his friend Gene Vincent, Cochran was killed when the cab driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a lamppost. Sheeley and Vincent survived. Cochran was just 21 years old.
Though Cochran died heartbreakingly young, his influence on rock ‘n’ roll was as huge as any lifelong rocker’s. It was one of his songs that brought The Beatles together. Guitarists who were heavily influenced by his style include Pete Townshend, Marc Bolan and Brian Setzer. And dozens of superstars have covered his songs, from The Who to Bruce Springsteen to The White Stripes and beyond. His life was short, but he was a giant of rock ‘n’ roll.
Written by Linnea Crowther. Find her on Google+.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons / Affendaddy