Busey's portrayal of Holly easily parallels, if not surpasses, the work of Kurt Russell in Elvis, Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner's Daughter, or more recently, Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line. Like Joaquin Phoenix (who learned to play guitar like Johnny Cash and did his own vocals on the soundtrack), Busey was admired by critics for recording the music for the film live. Buddy Holly goes from age 19 to 22 during the film. Gary Busey was 34 when he played the role of Holly. Busey reportedly lost thirty-two pounds to look more like Holly, who was 146 lbs at the time of his death. If Gary Busey is remembered for only one thing, let it be his performance of Buddy's "True Love Ways" at the end of the film. Busey is wonderful in the entire film, but there is something particularly special about that scene. Perhaps it's just the song(?).
"True Love Ways" was co-written by Buddy and his producer, Norman Petty, and recorded in October, 1958. This and "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" (written by Paul Anka) were Buddy's first (and only) recordings to use orchestral string arrangements. It wasn't released until after Holly's death in 1959. After he died in a plane crash, the album The Buddy Holly Story was released, which contained many of his early hits. The Buddy Holly Story 2 album came out a few months later and included many of his lesser-known songs, including "True Love Ways."
This scene is a fictional depiction of the night of Holly's last performance, in Clear Lake, Iowa, on February 2, 1959, as a part of the Winter Dance Party tour. Again, if Gary Busey were to be remembered for only one thing, let it be for this:
Whew! Gave my heartbeat a little skip, y'all!