Ritchie Valens Proved Rock 'N Roll Could Have A Latin Beat

By | February 22, 2018

test article image
Left: Ritchie Valens' grave. Right: Photo of Ritchie Valens. Sources: Wikimedia Commons; Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Ritchie Valens left us "La Bamba," "Donna," and "Come On, Let's Go" -- classics of '50s rock -- but he wasn't around long enough to show us what else he could do. A gifted musician writing pop songs without a blueprint, Valens died before his 18th birthday in the plane crash that also claimed the lives of Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson). As the child of two Mexican immigrants who had a major hit entirely sung in Spanish ("La Bamba"), Valens presaged the Mexican-American or Chicano rock movement -- and that's in addition to being a major figure in mainstream rock 'n roll and what we'd later call rockabilly.

test article image

Richard Steven Valenzuela (May 13, 1941 – February 3, 1959) was better known by his professional name, Ritchie Valens. His recording career lasted only eight short months.

Valens was born in a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles. Although he was born in the United States, he was of Mexican descent and was brought up listening to traditional Mexican, mariachi and flamenco guitar music, R&B and jump blues.