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Music / Ritchie Valens

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"Para bailar La Bamba,
Para bailar La Bamba,
Se necesita una poca de gracia,
Una poca de gracia,
Para mi, para ti, ay arriba, ay arriba,
Ay, arriba arriba,
Por ti sere, por ti sere, por ti sere."
— "La Bamba"

Richard Steven Valenzuela, best known as Ritchie Valens (May 13, 1941 – February 3, 1959) was an American Rock & Roll musician, best remembered as one of the three rock 'n' roll pioneers who, together with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper, died in a tragic plane crash that has gone down in history as "The Day The Music Died", in reference to Don McLean's American Pie. Of all three musicians Valens was the youngest, being only seventeen years of age.

Valens is best known for his Signature Song "La Bamba". However, he is also known for the lesser famous hit "Donna". He was the first rockstar of Hispanic origin, paving the way for artists such as Carlos Santana, Chan Romero and Los Lobos.

Despite his premature death and not particularly large music catalogue Valens did manage to receive a Biopic based on his life: La Bamba (1987) and was inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

Ritchie Valens' work provides examples of...

  • Alliterative Title: "Big Baby Blues", "Fast Freight".
  • Amicable Exes: Despite him and Donna Ludwig breaking up, they still remained very good friends.
  • Answer Song: After Valens' death his song "Donna" received an answer song. "A Letter To Donna" by The Kittens uses the melody of "Donna" but with new lyrics that sent a message to Valens' girlfriend Donna Ludwig.
  • Badass Boast: "La Bamba" has a line which says: "Yo no soy marinero, soy capitán", meaning "I'm not a sailor, I am a captain".
  • Biopic: La Bamba is one of the more celebrated examples for a rock musician, though it spices up his story with quite a few bits of Artistic License.
  • Cover Version: "La Bamba" was a traditional Mexican song.
  • Death by Irony: Valens was scared of flying ever since a plane crash on his high school playground. He wasn't at school at the time, but the fear kept with him. Eventually he did start flying again, which would tragically result in the plane crash that took his life.
  • Doowop Progression: "Donna".
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Ironically, while him being from Mexican descent would make it seem that Spanish came natural to him, he was actually raised as an English speaker, so Valens practically couldn't speak much Spanish at all. He had to learn and sing the lyrics of "La Bamba" phonetically. But at the time all rock 'n' roll songs were sang in English. To release a song like "La Bamba" and sing it entirely in Spanish was quite daring at the time.
  • One-Woman Song: "Donna", "That's My Little Suzie".
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: Valens is always named in one breath along with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper, due to them all dying in the same plane accident.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "Donna" was written about Valens' girlfriend Donna Ludwig.
  • Rock & Roll: He is considered to be one of the 1950s rock pioneers.
  • Something Blues: "Big Baby Blues".
  • The Something Song: "The Paddiwack Song".
  • Younger Than They Look: He was not yet 18 when he died. The trope image isn't even one of his last photos!