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Ritchie Valens

The first Hispanic rock star, Ritchie Valens will forever be known as one of the two musicians (along with the Big Bopper) who perished with Buddy Holly in 1959, when their private plane crashed in the midst of a Midwest tour. At the time, Valens had only recently established himself as one of the most promising young talents in rock & roll, just barely missing the top of the charts with "Donna," a number two hit, and pioneering a blend of rock and Latin music with the single's almost equally popular flip side, "La Bamba." Like many rock stars who died prematurely, it's difficult to assess his unrealized potential; he was only 17 at the time of his death, and had just barely begun to make records. Nevertheless, Valens' music has endured for decades.

Ricardo Esteban Valenzuela Reyes was raised in a Mexican-American household in the San Fernando Valley. He played several instruments as a child and eventually devoted most of his focus to the guitar, learning a right-hand version of the guitar despite his own left-handedness. Valens' musical influences were diverse, running the gamut from Little Richard and rockabilly to traditional Mexican genres like mariachi, and his talent on the guitar earned him a spot in a local band, the Silhouettes, when he was 16. Valens eventually became the band's frontman. While playing at a local movie theater in 1958, he was discovered by producer Bob Keane, who signed Valens to his Del-Fi label and convinced him to shorten his surname to "Valens," claiming the abbreviated version had broader appeal than "Valenzuela." Under Keane's wing, Valens entered a Los Angeles recording studio in July and emerged with "Come on Let's Go," which climbed to number 42 on the national charts.

By the end of 1958, Valens had quit high school in order to focus on his career, which had skyrocketed after his second single, "Donna," climbed to number two. Also enjoying a good amount of popularity was the single's innovative flip side, "La Bamba," a rocked-up Mexican folk song performed entirely in Spanish. "La Bamba" featured some fierce guitar work, as well as the thick sound of the Danelectro bass, which gave the instrument more electric presence than it had previously enjoyed on any rock & roll disc. Valens was subsequently hailed as one of rock & roll's teen idols, and he hit road in early 1959 alongside Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, Dion & the Belmonts, and Frankie Sardo.

Billed as "the Winter Dance Party," the tour was originally scheduled to hit 24 Midwestern cities over the course of three weeks. The musicians all shared a single bus, whose heater broke several days into the tour, worsening the long drives between each show. By the time the Winter Dance Party rolled into Clear Lake, Iowa, on February 2, Buddy Holly had grown tired of the chilly conditions and decided to book a plane in order to fly to the show's next stop. After that evening's show at the Surf Ballroom, Holly boarded the plane along with Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. The aircraft crashed several minutes after takeoff, though, instantly killing pilot Roger Peterson along with all three of his passengers. Ritchie Valens was 17 years old.

Valens only had about two albums' worth of material in the can, as well as some lo-fi live tapes of a gig at a local junior high, before his death; undoubtedly, some (or many) of these were demos or unfinished tracks. Other singers emulated Valens' Mexican-American brand of rock in the following years, most notably Chan Romero (originator of "Hippy Hippy Shake," who also recorded for Bob Keane's Del-Fi label and used some of the same musicians who had backed Valens) and Chris Montez. In the 1980s and 1990s, the L.A.-based Latino rock band Los Lobos were often cited for reflecting Valens' influence, and groups like Los Lonely Boys carried the torch of Chicano rock into the 21st century. Meanwhile, the 1987 film La Bamba (whose soundtrack heavily featured Los Lobos) gave his story a glossy Hollywood makeover, exposing Valens' legacy to millions even as it introduced the usual distortions and factual errors in its dramatization of his brief life. ~ Richie Unterberger & Andrew Leahey, Rovi
full bio

Comments

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Ritche Valen & Buddy Holly...two of my favorites!!
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One of my very first record collections. Great music!
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Mexico rock
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Ritchie baby ♡
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The day music died ������
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amye45
Lou Diamond Phillips where are you!?!
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Love his tunes!
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I WAS 13 WHEN THE PLANE CRASHED.SO SAD, HE WAS SO YOUNG..I UNDERSTAND
DION AND THE BELMONTS AND JIMMIE RODGERS CANCELLED THE PLANE TRIP..
BEST MUSIC THE 50'S N 60'S..
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i loved the movie even though a lot was made up. All the movie stars were great, especially the one that played Ritchie (I forgot his name).
I remember Ritchie's music too. I'm that old. I don't feel or look it (so others say).
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Good times wirh my dam wit dis song
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I named my son Ritchie with a T in remembrance of watching La Bamba...
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shinn.donna
I am a Donna who grew up with Ritchie Valens and Donna...my 1955 T-Bird license plate is HI TONE and I still wear pink and black every February 3rd. Gone but always on my phonograph.. . . s i g h .
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dragonlady60 8 8
ritchie...go n e to soon rip.xoxoxoxo
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Ritchieeeeee e e e e e e e e ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
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I really love the movie of Ritchie valens
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We will always remember you richie
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I love you ritchie ������❤��
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Let's go richie
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How many more songs would we be singing or remembering if BUDDY and RITCHIE were still with us
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i love him and his music
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love his music
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Love him
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Richie looked older than the usual 17 yr old. He was taller, bigger etc.
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If he died at 17, who's the old guy on the cover?
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ajordan803
Rip
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Damn Ritchie you were takin from us way too early. I can't imagine what you would of fully become.You and your mother Rest in Peace. Your legacy lives on,Peace be with your family!
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This song made me want to change my name. Love it still to this day
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Ur mine
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Gone way too soon. We will miss you Ritchie!
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pnotchr73
Did anyone realize that La Bamba and Twist and Shout have the same tune!? It's really cool!
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La bamba !! Great song
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i like
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R.I.P. Richie. Pacas all day long
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Great singer died to soon long live the valley boy...818... .
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My grandma knew you, you were classmates. She told me all about you and how you fell for Donna, she only liked you because you were famous, at the school dance, she was dancing with all the other boys ����
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Love Richie.
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biancavalle. j o s h u a 8
Ritchie I love you and even though you didn't live a long life, you are now living the life every one wants and that is living in heaven. One day ill see you and just sing this song that I'm listing to right now and that is Donna. RIP love ya!
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Got a minute ? There's a church that was built and they need monetary donations to help cover expenses , the church is Saint Patrick church - 1046 E. 34 th street Los Angeles California 90011 - (323) 232- 8756 ( 323) 234- 5963 - Pastor Rev. Timothy Dyer - Jesus is God :)
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gigid78
And you belong to me
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dragonlady60 8 8
Rip ritchie..xox o x o ! ! !
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Love the song La Bamba, not the movie though...
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Ritchie was a good singer
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Not too many know this but Jimmie Rodgers was supposed to be on the plane also........ .
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I LOVE this .
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This Is For My Friend Orlando Porras a Great Guy!!!
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U are DA boom R.I.P.
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Slow dancing with my girl....
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Love Ritchie Valens music.
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Love u Ritchie Valens. We belong together!!! Listen to ur music everyday.
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BRUCE BENNET IS COOL
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