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The Day the Music Died

Buddy Holly, one of the fore fathers of modern music, died in a plane crash on 3rd February 1959. His short but explosive career left a permanent musical legacy, immortalised in 1971 by the cryptic lyrics of Don Mclean’s classic song American Pie.

Something touched me deep inside the day the music died.

Four years ago today, on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of Buddy Holly’s death, we were at Wat Pa Paeng for the funeral of talented musician and well liked Chiang Mai ex-pat David Crisp. A beautiful February day, we were hardly singing dirges in the dark, despite the sombre mood. The coffin, bedecked with more than one pink carnation looked like an early entrant for the up-coming Chiang Mai Flower Festival as we followed it past the parked pick-up trucks to the crematorium.

I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
And, I knew if I had my chance that I could make those people dance, and…
Maybe they’d be happy for a while

David Crisp
In memory of David Crisp 1953-2009. “The world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.”

I knew I was out of luck the day the music died

We had the helter skelter in the summer swelter on the way there when an aged traffic cop had the audacity to pull us over in the blazing sun for a helmet infraction. We were already running late as Khun Note, famed for the hours he spends in the bathroom, had delayed our departure sharpening his tongue. Resplendent in a coat that looked like it had been borrowed from James Dean, Note was on fine form that morning and burst forth in the way only a Thai katoey can. How we didn’t get arrested I’ll never know. Note, hands on hips got right in the guy’s face and in an extremely un-thai way explained why you don’t ticket people on their way to a funeral. And while the cop was looking down the jester stole his thorny crown: Note dramatically stuffed the half written ticket into the cop’s top pocket and drove off.

Not a word was spoken – the church bells all were broken
And, the three men I admire most: the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, they…
Caught the last train for the coast the day the music died

It was a Buddhist funeral; Before the cremation many stood up to speak with several elegant testimonials to David’s warm caring personality and musical aptitude. You can read more about what was said in some previous articles written about David here and for Chiang Mai City News. After a final viewing of the body we departed as the pyre was ignited.

Fire is the Devil’s only friend
And, as I watched him on the stage my hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell could break that satan’s spell
And, as the flames climbed high into the night to light the sacrificial rite, I saw…
Satan laughing with delight the day the music died

David’s legacy was his music, whilst clearly not in the style of Buddy Holly, or even Don Mclean, David’s classical work won widespread acclaim with perhaps his Scottish Fantasia for the opening of the Scottish Parliament being one of his biggest achievements. In Chiang Mai he is best remembered for his madrigals with the Spirit House Singers, based at the Spirit House Restaurant in Chiang Mai. This was a group he organised and conducted with skill and enthusiasm. At the sacred store where I’d heard the music years before, the man there said the music wouldn’t play: so they held a special musical memorial event to remember David.

Now, do you believe in Rock and Roll? Can music save your mortal soul? And…
Can you teach me how to dance real slow?
Well, I know that you’re in love with him, ’cause I saw you dancing in the gym

David’s life in Thailand was in every sense a tragedy and one which touched many more people than just David himself. He came here with expectations of love in paradise; the causes and effects of what happened should be lessons to us all.

And, in the streets the children screamed, the lover’s cried, and the poets dreamed, but…

So what did happen to David? For those reading this who don’t know the story, David was murdered in his home right here in Chiang Mai on 20 January 2009. It was a brutal and senseless murder perpetrated by three hill tribe bar boys that he’d met in Chiang Mai’s Sleaze Alley, befriended and let stay in his home.

Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry
Them good ol’ boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing…
This’ll be the day that I die

Well, it wasn’t a Chevy but David’s classic Citroën they were driving, and his safe that they stole wasn’t quite dry; it contained a mere 5000 Bt. Life is cheap in Thailand; so the drinking that went on afterwards at the Lillawadee Restaurant was more likely Lao Khao than whiskey and rye.

Eight Miles High and falling fast….
Do you recall what was revealed the day the music died?

Chiang Mai has a major problem which so many fail to recognise or choose to ignore. And it seems the issue has too many hidden interests for it to go away anytime soon. A likely serious contributor to what happened in David’s house that night was drug abuse by the perpetrators.

When the Jester sang………

Despite the harsh penalties for being caught, Yaa Baa (Crazy medicine in Thai or Methamphetamine) is still easily and cheaply available in the Rose of the North and is ruining the lives of so many of the cities youth, particularly among the Burmese immigrant and stateless hill tribe communities.

And, there we were, all in one place – a generation Lost in Space
With no time left to start again
So, come on, Jack be nimble, Jack be quick – Jack Flash sat on a Candlestick, ’cause…

Whatever did happen to Jack?

The courtroom was adjourned – no verdict was returned

  1. Bob says:

    Nice article, Thank you. So sad to see the abuse you got from that idiot on SGT, what an ignorant asshole “Khor Tose” is to post that kinda shit in a thread remembering David. Don’t worry about it, everyone in Chiang Mai knows who and what he is.

  2. Blackbeard says:

    I can’t believe it’s been four years already. RIP David. Its sad the damage a few bad kids can do to the reputation of stateless and immigrant people in Chiang Mai. Most of the Shan I know are good guys but they’re all victims here.

  3. David says:

    An interesting musical take. Thanks for your efforts keeping David’s memory alive and the poignant comments about the funeral.

  4. Craig says:

    Bad news on the doorstep… I couldn’t take one more step.

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