Retro Dee writes about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s on this site. Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every Wednesday.
Hi folks and welcome to another edition of Musical Misconceptions. I’m Retro Dee and in this edition we’ll be talking about one of the best songs ever written: “Crying Waiting Hoping” by Buddy Holly.
There’s an old adage that says, “If you don’t know where to begin, start at the beginning.” So I will. I’ll start right from the very day I first heard this song…
It was the summer that I was 12, and like many bored kids back in the 90’s, I decided I’d make it a Blockbuster Night. That’s when I discovered a classic movie called La Bamba.
Like you know, La Bamba is the biopic about the life of Ritchie Valens, starring Lou Diamond Phillips. Just recently, this movie has come back into theaters, which is a big dose of nostalgia for those of us who remember seeing it on video at a young age. And, I can imagine, it’s an even bigger dose of nostalgia for those old enough to have seen it when it first came out in the 80’s.
The very first time I heard Buddy Holly’s “Crying Waiting Hoping” was towards the end of La Bamba in the scene where Ritchie calls his brother for the last time before he gets on the ill-fated flight in Clear Lake, Iowa. In the scene, Buddy Holly (played by the talented Marshall Crenshaw) is on stage singing “Crying Waiting Hoping” while Ritchie is on the phone. So technically when I first heard the song, it was Marshall Crenshaw, not Buddy Holly. But none-the-less I immediately liked it.
Fast forward several years to 2017 when I began my own research on my new favorite person of all time, Buddy Holly. I was in for a BIG surprise regarding this song. Not only did Buddy not sing “Crying Waiting Hoping” on the Winter Dance Party ’59 tour, he never even performed it at all….
You see, this song was recorded shortly before Buddy’s death and was still sitting on a tape in his apartment back home in Greenwich Village. It hadn’t even been released yet, let alone performed in a show. This inaccuracy is a HUGE historical boo-boo, one that had me (and perhaps others) believing that this song was a hit during Buddy’s lifetime.
The truth is, this song was not released until 1959, after Buddy Holly’s death. The commercial version of this song has the included dubbed in back-up vocals (“do-do-do”) which are not on Buddy’s original recording.
Regarding La Bamba: Did Marshall Crenshaw do a good job? Yes. Was the song cleverly placed in the film as it built up to the tragic climax? Again, yes. But is it historically accurate? No. I have mixed emotions about it, too. On one hand, this is such a poignant point in the movie (Ritchie’s touching final phone conversation with his brother, in juxtaposition with Buddy gleefully performing on stage, unaware of the fate about to befall him…) It’s just so well done, from a cinematic standpoint, and something I’ll remember as a part of my childhood forever.
But in some ways, I feel that it was wrong to show “Crying Waiting Hoping” as part of Buddy’s final set. He never played that song in front of an audience, therefore it’s a bit of a shame they used it in the movie at all. It’s that kind of “creative licensing” that make biopics the sneaky, untrustworthy, Hollywood drama-filled glut that they inevitably end up being.
Perhaps, at this point, I’m digressing…. This fantastic song has three prominent versions:
The first, is the 1959 commercial release or “overdubbed version”. This is what you’ll hear on a retro-themed diner jukebox as well as most oldies compilations, and on most oldies radio shows. The B-Side to this record was “Peggy Sue Got Married” (also overdubbed) which was also recorded during Buddy’s last weeks on Earth.
This next version is the “undubbed version”, Buddy’s original recording without the dubbed-in back-up vocals and additional guitar riff. This is how he heard it, and so has become my favorite version.
Marshall Crenshaw Version, from the Movie La Bamba
And finally, we have the Marshall Crenshaw version from the movie La Bamba. This is the cover version I first heard while watching the movie, even before I heard Buddy Holly himself sing it. It’s really quite remarkable for a cover, however, what gets me giggling now when I hear it is that “Awesome 80’s” guitar riff… It’s so 80’s!
So there you have it.
In closing, I’d like to add that if you begin to familiarize yourself with Buddy’s writing, you’ll see how this song has hallmarks of his very last work. Just be patient and the timeline – and the truth – will all come together.
When you do the right research, you’ll learn the details of the fantastic achievements of his amazing life the way it actually was, and not the way the movies make it appear.
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