Richard Steven Valenzuela

The electrifying voice that sang “La Bamba”, the rock and roll version of a traditional Mexican ballad, was first heard on May 13, 1941, with the birth of Richard Steven Valenzuela.  Later known as Ritchie Valens, he was a Mexican-American singer, songwriter, and guitarist whose brief but brilliant career influenced a generation of musicians, including the Beatles and Led Zeppelin.  Valens was discovered at age 16 by Del-fi Records.  In October 1958, Del-fi released “La Bamba” with a love song entitled “Donna” on the flip side. Valens had written the love song about his high school sweetheart, who was forbidden by her father to date a Mexican. “Donna” sold over a million copies and reached second place on the nation’s charts while “La Bamba” only climbed as high as number 22.  Valens was touring with Buddy Holiday, and the two men were killed in a plane crash in 1959.  The headlines that morning read, “The Day the Music Died”.  (Next year, we promise a podcast.)

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