Eddie Cochran, rockabilly icon of the '50s who perhaps set the template for the rebellious, tough rocker image, was born on this day in 1938. He was an innovative guitarist, a proto-punk influence and an early experimenter of overdubbing and multitracking. He remains one of the great heroes of early rock & roll.
Originally from Minnesota, as a teenager he moved with his family to Los Angeles. He started off playing drums as a kid before learning guitar. He was into blues & country and dropped out of high school to become a professional musician. In '54 was part of a duet with Hank Cochran (of whom he is no relation) as the Cochran Brothers, recording some sides. He worked as a session musician (including with Johnny Burnette and Gene Vincent), cut his first solo record in '55 and then appeared in the flick The Girl Can't Help It in '56, which greatly boosted his visibility.
His first album came in '57 and then he blew up with his massively influential "Summertime Blues". Another awesome hit was '59's "Something Else", later covered by the Sex Pistols, as well as "C'mon Everybody". With the plane crash deaths of his friends Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, he developed a premonition that he would die young. In fact he had planned to take a retirement from touring after a planned UK run in 1960.
However, true to his fears, he died at just 21 in a taxi crash on that tour. Gene Vincent, his fianceé, his manager and the driver all survived the crash, although Vincent suffered a debilitating injury that plagued his career. After his death the hits kept coming for awhile. His tunes have been covered by The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Motorhead, Van Halen, T. Rex, Rush, U2, Beach Boys, Buck Owens...and of course that mega-heavy Blue Cheer version of "Summertime Blues".