Ritchie Valens

Ritchie Valens

Rock Singer

Richard Steven Valenzuela, known professionally as Ritchie Valens, was an American guitarist, singer and songwriter. A rock and roll pioneer and a forefather of the Chicano rock movement, Valens was killed in a plane crash eight months into his music career.

Full Name
May 13, 1941
Feb 3, 1959
Net Worth


Ritchie Valens, born Richard Steven Valenzuela on May 13, 1941 in Pacoima, California, was an American rock and roll singer. He is best known for his hits "La Bamba" and "Donna," both released in 1958. His short but influential career abruptly ended when he died in a plane crash at the age of 17.

Valens grew up in a Mexican-American family and was the youngest of five children. His father, Jose, was a skilled guitar player and taught Ritchie the instrument from a young age. He began writing songs in his early teens and formed a band with some friends from school. In 1957, he recorded demos of several songs at local studios which eventually caught the attention of Bob Keane, who signed him to Del-Fi Records. 

Valens' first single, "Come On Let's Go," made it onto the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958 and reached No. 42 on the chart. This was followed by his second single, "Donna," which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became his most successful hit to date. Later that same year he released "La Bamba," which topped out at No. 22 on the chart but has since become one of his most iconic songs due to its universal appeal and frequent use in films and television shows over the years.

Valens released two albums during his lifetime; Ritchie Valens (1959) and The Best of Ritchie Valens (1960). Both albums featured remastered versions of his earlier singles as well as some previously unreleased tracks that had been recorded before his untimely death in 1959. In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame alongside other legendary artists such as Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley.

Life Timeline

<div id="" class="timeline-item"><p id="" class="timeline-year">1941</p><h3 id="" class="timeline-title">Ritchie Valens is Born</h3><p id="" class="timeline-text">On May 13, 1941, Ritchie Valens was born in Pacoima, California to Joseph Steven Valenzuela and Concepcion Reyes.</p></div>

    <div id="" class="timeline-item"><p id="" class="timeline-year">1957</p><h3 id="" class="timeline-title">Begins Recording Career</h3><p id="" class="timeline-text">Valens begins his recording career with the release of his first single “Come On, Let’s Go.”</p></div>

    <div id="" class="timeline-item"><p id="" class="timeline-year">1958</p><h3 id="" class="timeline-title">Releases Debut Album</h3><p id="" class="timeline-text">Releases his debut album, “Ritchie Valens”, which includes the hit singles “La Bamba” and “Donna”.</p></div>

    <div id="" class="timeline-item"><p id="" class="timeline-year">Feb 1959</p><h3 id="" class="timeline-title">Joins the Winter Dance Party Tour</h3><p id="" class="timeline-text">Joins the “Winter Dance Party” tour which featured Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Dion and the Belmonts.</p></div>

    <div id="" class="timeline-item"><p id="" class="timeline-year">Feb 3, 1959</p><h3 id="" class="timeline-title">Killed in Plane Crash</h3><p id="" class="timeline-text">Tragically killed in a plane crash along with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper in an Iowa cornfield.</p></div>

    <div id="" class="timeline-item"><p id="" class="timeline-year">1987</p><h3 id="" class="timeline-title">Inducted into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame</h3><p id="" class="timeline-text">Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as part of their first group of inductees.</p></div>

    <div id="" class="timeline-item"><p id="" class="timeline-year">2001</p><h3 id="" class="timeline-title">Posthumous Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame</h3><p id="" class="timeline-text">Receives a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to music.</p></div>

Why We Love Them

<div id="" class="whywelove-item"><h3 id="" class="whywelove-title"><span class="whywelove-leter">A.</span> His Music</h3><p id="" class="whywelove-text">Ritchie Valens was a pioneer of the rock n roll sound. He had an infectious energy when he sang and played guitar that was contagious. His hit song “La Bamba” is still popular today and has been covered by many other artists.</p></div>

    <div id="" class="whywelove-item"><h3 id="" class="whywelove-title"><span class="whywelove-leter">B.</span> He Was a Pioneer of Chicano Rock</h3><p id="" class="whywelove-text">Ritchie Valens was one of the first Chicano rockers to reach mainstream success. He embraced his Mexican heritage in his music and brought it to the forefront for all to see. His music showed that you could be both Mexican and American, and still make great music.</p></div>

    <div id="" class="whywelove-item"><h3 id="" class="whywelove-title"><span class="whywelove-leter">C.</span> He Was a True Inspiration</h3><p id="" class="whywelove-text">Ritchie Valens was an inspiration to many people. He showed everyone that with hard work, dedication, and passion you can achieve anything. His example of dedication and perseverance can still be seen today in many successful Latino musicians.</p></div>

Interesting Facts

<div id="" class="facts-item"><h3 id="" class="facts-title"><span class="facts-number">1.</span> Pioneer of Chicano Rock</h3><p id="" class="facts-text">Ritchie Valens was a pioneer of Chicano rock, a style of music that was popular in the 1950s and 60s. He fused elements of traditional Mexican music with rock and roll to create a unique sound.</p></div>

    <div id="" class="facts-item"><h3 id="" class="facts-title"><span class="facts-number">2.</span> First Latino to Appear on American Bandstand</h3><p id="" class="facts-text">Ritchie Valens was the first Latino to appear on the popular television show 'American Bandstand'.</p></div>

    <div id="" class="facts-item"><h3 id="" class="facts-title"><span class="facts-number">3.</span> Died at Age 17</h3><p id="" class="facts-text">Ritchie Valens died tragically at the age of 17 in a plane crash alongside fellow musicians Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper.</p></div>

    <div id="" class="facts-item"><h3 id="" class="facts-title"><span class="facts-number">4.</span> First Rock & Roll Song to Top the Billboard Charts</h3><p id="" class="facts-text">Ritchie Valen's song 'La Bamba' became the first rock and roll song to top the Billboard charts in 1958.</p></div>

    <div id="" class="facts-item"><h3 id="" class="facts-title"><span class="facts-number">5.</span> Featured in Notable Movies</h3><p id="" class="facts-text">Ritchie Valens has been featured in notable movies such as 'La Bamba' and 'The Buddy Holly Story'. He also had a short cameo in Steven Spielberg's 'Back To The Future'.</p></div>


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