Ritchie Valens (born Richard Steven Valenzuela; on 13 May 1941 in Pacoima, California, USA – February 3, 1959) was a Mexican American singer, songwriter and guitarist.
A Rock and Roll pioneer and a forefather of the Chicano rock movement, Valens’ recording career lasted only eight months. During this time, however, he scored several hits, most notably “La Bamba”, which was originally a Mexican folk song that Valens transformed with a rock rhythm and beat that became a hit in 1958, making Valens a pioneer of the Spanish-speaking rock and roll movement.
Valens died in a plane crash outside Clear Lake, Iowa while on the Winter Dance Party tour. Also killed in the crash were the pilot of the plane and rock and roll stars Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. The song American Pie, by Don McLean is a tribute to the three musicians who died, and a reflection of the changes in music since their deaths. In the song he calls the day of their death “the day the music died,” a phrase that came from newspaper headlines that announced the tragedy on February 3, 1959
A rock and roll pioneer and a forefather of the Chicano rock movement, Valens' recording career lasted eight months, as it abruptly ended when he was killed in a plane crash.
During this time, he had several hits, most notably "La Bamba", which he adapted from a Mexican folk song. Valens transformed the song into one with a rock rhythm and beat, and it became a hit in 1958, making Valens a pioneer of the Spanish-speaking rock and roll movement.
On February 3, 1959, on what has become known as "The Day the Music Died", Valens died in a plane crash in Iowa, an accident that also claimed the lives of fellow musicians Buddy Holly and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, as well as pilot Roger Peterson. Valens was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
Ritchie Valen's song La Bamba is ranked #98 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Rock & Roll.