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Ritchie Valens Chicano Rock and Latin Rock Pioneer; and His Early Death

ritchie valens- richie valens

Young Ritchie Valens.

Ritchie Valens, a pioneer of rock and roll and a forefather of Chicano rock, died in a plane crash eight months after he began recording.

In 1941, Mexican American singer Ritchie Valens was born in Pacoima, California as Richard Steven Valenzuela. Ritchie Valens is considered a pioneer of Chicano rock and Latin rock and inspired a variety of musicians of Mexican heritage.

At a time when there were few Latinos in American rock and pop, Valens influenced Los Lobos, The Lonely Boys, and Carlos Santana. His success as the first Latino in mainstream rock is widely regarded.

The recording career of Valens ended abruptly when he was killed in a plane crash eight months later. His most notable hit, “La Bamba”, is an adaptation of a Mexican folk song. The song was transformed into a rock-influenced hit by Valens in 1958, making him a pioneer of the Spanish-speaking rock and roll movement. In addition, his hit “Donna” reached number two in the US.

Valens died at the age of 17 in a plane crash in Iowa on February 3, 1959, which has become known as “The Day the Music Died”. Buddy Holly and J. Dilla also died in the crash. The Big Bopper, P. Richardson, and pilot Roger Peterson.

Ritchie Valens was known professionally as Ritchie Valens. Ritchie Steven Valenzuela (May 13, 1941 – February 3, 1959) was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist.

A posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was made in 2001.

Stunning photos that capture Ritchie Valens shortly before his death.

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Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and “The Big Bopper” die in a plane crash

Three rising stars of American music, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Approximately a few minutes after taking off from Mason City on a flight headed for Moorhead, Minnesota, ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson and his chartered Beechcraft Bonanza are killed in a crash in Iowa. Pilot error and bad weather were blamed for the crash. A song by Holly and the Crickets had just reached the No. 1 spot.

The Winter Dance Party Tour had to be flown between stops by Holly’s band since the tour bus had mechanical issues. Waylon Jennings, Holly’s band member, was forced into giving up his seat by Richardson, who had the flu. Ritchie Valens subsequently won another seat by coin toss.

As a teenager, Holley sang country music with his friends before switching to rock ‘n roll after opening for performers such as Elvis Presley in Lubbock, Texas. Holly was just 22 when he died in 1959. Holly and his band toured internationally by the mid-1950s, playing songs like “Peggy Sue,” “Oh, Boy!” and “See You Soon.”Holly wrote every one of his songs, many were released after he died and had an influence on artists such as Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan.

J.P. was another crash victim. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, 28, was originally a disk jockey in Texas before he began writing songs. Richardson’s most famous recording was the rockabilly “Chantilly Lace,” which made the Top 10. He developed a stage show based on his radio persona, “The Big Bopper.”

Check Out: Cloris Leachman Black and White Photos

Ritchie Valens Singles

Year Titles (b/w indicates B-side track)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Record label Peak chart positions Album
US Billboard US Cashbox AUS
1958 “Come On, Let’s Go”
b/w “Framed”
Del-Fi 4106 42 51 53 Ritchie Valens
“Donna”
b/w “La Bamba”
Del-Fi 4110 2
22
2
49
4
1959 “Fast Freight”
b/w “Big Baby Blues”
Original pressings shown as “Arvee Allens”; later pressings
shown as “Ritchie Valens”
Del-Fi 4111 N/A Ritchie
“That’s My Little Suzie”
b/w “In a Turkish Town”
Del-Fi 4114 55 43 N/A Ritchie Valens
“Little Girl”
b/w “We Belong Together” (from Ritchie Valens)
Del-Fi 4117 92 93 N/A Ritchie
“Stay Beside Me”
b/w “Big Baby Blues”
Del-Fi 4128 N/A
1960 “The Paddiwack Song”
b/w “Cry, Cry, Cry”
The above three singles were issued on gold Valens Memorial Series
labels. Del-Fi 4117 was also issued with picture sleeve.
Del-Fi 4133 N/A
1987 “La Bamba ’87”
b/w “La Bamba” (original version from Ritchie Valens)
Del-Fi 1287 89 Non-album track
1998 “Come On, Let’s Go”
b/w “La Bamba”
Del-Fi 51341 Come On, Let’s Go!

Ritchie Valens Quick Facts

  1. How old was Ritchie Valens when he died?
    – He was 17 years old when he died.
  2. How did Ritchie Valens die? 
    – He had died in a plane crash.
  3. What happened to Ritchie Valens donna?
    – Donna now lives in a small community near Sacramento with her third husband. She has two daughters
  4. When did Ritchie Valens die? 
    – He died February 3, 1959 (aged 17)
Background information
Birth name Richard Steven Valenzuela
Also known as Ritchie Valens
Born May 13, 1941
Pacoima, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died February 3, 1959 (aged 17)
Clear Lake, Iowa, U.S.
Genres
  • Rock and roll
  • Chicano rock
Occupation(s)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • guitarist
Instruments
  • Guitar
  • vocals
  • drums
  • trumpet
Years active 1957–1959
Associated acts Waylon Jennings Buddy Holly
Website ritchievalens.com