"La Bamba" Is Released
"La Bamba" is a folk song, best known from a 1958 adaptation by Ritchie Valens, a top 40 hit in the the U.S. charts and one of early rock and roll's best-known songs.
The traditional song inspired Ritchie Valens' rock and roll version "La Bamba" in the 1950s. Valens' "La Bamba" infused the traditional tune with a rock beat, making the song accessible to a much wider population and earning it (and Valens) a place in rock history (inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001). The song features a simple verse-chorus form. Valens, who was proud of his Mexican heritage, was hesitant at first to merge "La Bamba" with rock and roll, but then agreed. Valens obtained the lyrics from his aunt Ernestine Reyes and learned the Spanish lyrics phonetically, as he had been raised from birth speaking English. Valens' version of La Bamba is ranked number 345 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is the only song on the list not sung in English. The song also ranked #98 in VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Rock and Roll and #59 in VH1's 100 Greatest Dance Songs of Rock and Roll, both done in 2000.
Richard Steven "Ritchie" Valenzuela (May 13, 1941 – February 3, 1959), better known by his stage name Ritchie Valens, was an 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 "Donna" which peaked at #2 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart; and, the flip side "La Bamba", which was originally a Mexican folk song that Valens transformed with a rock rhythm and beat. Both songs charted in early 1959, 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 was killed in a small-plane crash in Iowa, an event that also claimed the lives of fellow musicians Buddy Holly and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.