On this day in 1956, Eddie Cochran signed his first record contract, beginning a prolific three-and-a-half year public career before his death in a car accident at the age of 21. Here he is performing his first hit, “Twenty Flight Rock,” in the Jayne Mansfield movie The Girl Can’t Help It.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.