Hispanic Heritage Month:
October 1, 2013
Name: Ritchie Valens
Birth, death: May 13, 1941-Feb. 3, 1959
Birthplace: Pacoima, Calif.
Despite his short musical career, Ritchie Valens left a great impression on music. Born Richard Steven Valenzuela, he was a chart topper by age 17, but his career was cut short by a plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and J.P. The Big Bopper Richardson on Feb. 3, 1959.
Don McLean would later write the song American Pie to commemorate the tragedy in what he would call the day the music died.
Valens debut single, Come On, Lets Go, is a catchy and fun rock song that barely missed the Top 40, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and was later covered by Latino rockers Los Lobos.
Valens next single, Donna, was a song he wrote about his high school sweetheart. That 1958 ballad caught the attention of a Los Angeles disc jockey, which helped propel it to the No. 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, according to AllMusic.com.
With those songs under his belt, Valens was invited to perform on Dick Clarks American Bandstand and Alan Freeds Christmas Show. However, it was his remake of the Mexican fiesta song La Bamba that made him a legend in rock and roll and help push Latino rock into mainstream.
In 2001, Valens was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.