The Widow’s Pique

For more than forty years, María Elena Holly has fiercely guarded the legacy of her late husband, rock and roll icon Buddy Holly.
Photograph by Artie Limmer

“You know what they call me?” A coquette’s giggle flutters out the mouth of María Elena Holly—Buddy Holly’s widow to you and me—as she sits at the dining table in her tastefully appointed Turtle Creek townhouse in Dallas. “The Spanish Yoko Ono.” For the better part of this day, and a whole day before that, she has recounted the story of her personal life and her career as the guardian of the name, likeness, and public image of Buddy, the rock and roller from Lubbock who died young and tragically more than forty years ago.That role has defined the 68-year-old María Elena—a blessing and a curse, she will tell you. The upside is obvious, from the creature comforts that surround her to the perks her own celebrity brings, such as being on a first-name basis with Paul McCartney, the former Beatle who bought the rights to Buddy’s publishing catalog. The downside is being compared with Yoko Ono, the widow of another Beatle, John Lennon. Guarding the legacy of a celebrity while keeping the flame lit is no cakewalk, María Elena says. You’re sought out because you’re the closest link to the object of fans’ affection, but you can never be that person.

María Elena tried to leave


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