On September 29, 1957, American rock music pioneer Buddy Holly and his band the Crickets released a record with “Oh Boy” on one side and “Not Fade Away” on the other.
Of the two songs, “Not Fade Away” is the most famous. It’s a classic rock ode with a Bo Diddley beat about a boy whose love for a girl is “bigger than a Cadillac” – a love that’s real “and not fade away.”
Holly was killed in a plane crash on February 3, 1959 (called “the day the music died” by Don Maclean in his 1971 song “American Pie”). But Holly’s music still lives on, as does the phrase “not fade away.”
In addition to showing up as a phrase in headlines and articles, it has been used as the title of several books about Holly’s short but musically influential life, the title of several compilations of his recordings and the title of a tribute album.
It may be that Holly got his inspiration for the phrase from the Bible.
I Peter 5:4 says: “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”
As I started writing this post, I heard about the death yesterday of a one of the greatest modern experts on the origins and uses of famous quotations and phrases – William Safire.
In his broad and varied career, Safire was a journalist, a political consultant and speechwriter, and the author of a long list of non-fiction and fiction books.
In the realm of quotations he’s a giant for the incredible wealth of information he uncovered and provided in his “On Language” column in the New York Times Magazine.
Safire is also responsible for some famous quotations himself. His best known lines were in a speech he wrote for President Nixon’s feisty, ill-fated Vice President, Spiro Agnew, which Agnew delivered on September 11, 1970:
“In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H Club – the ‘hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.’”
I have long been an avid reader of Safire’s “On Language” column. I think his Political Dictionary is one of the best books on word, phrase and quote origins ever written.
And, though he’ll be missed, I’m sure his great body of work won’t fade away.
Here are some of the other famous quotes and phrases linked to SEPTEMBER 29:
• “You rang?” and “Work!?!” - Catchphrases of Bob Denver as the Hollywoodized beatnik Maynard G. Krebs in the American TV series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which debuted on CBS on September 29, 1959.
• “thirtysomething” – Term coined or at least popularized by the ABC primetime TV drama of that name, which debuted on September 29, 1987.