Retro Dee is a regular contributor to The Grooveyard’s website, writing about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s. Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every week.
(NOTE: Ritchie Valens is among the artists whose May birthdays will be celebrated Saturday on The Grooveyard.)
Hi everybody. Today we remember a teenager – possibly the most talented teen to ever exist. His name was Richard Steven Valenzuela… known professionally as Ritchie Valens.
Ritchie Valens was born in Pacoima, CA on May 13, 1941. After a short, but wildly successful career in music, Ritchie tragically perished in Clear Lake Iowa on February 3, 1959 along side his tour mates Buddy Holly and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. He was only 17 years old. If you would like to read the short bio I wrote on Ritchie, please check out Today We Remember: Ritchie Valens – Bright Young Talent, Gone Too Soon
In honor of what would’ve been Ritchie’s 80th Birthday, I would like to feature 3 of his fantastic songs, all of which were hits during his short lifetime.
This is Ritchie’s most well-known hit. “La Bamba” is a brilliant Rock n Roll adaptation of a classic Mexican folk song. This song makes me want to get up and dance and I’m not even the dancing type. It was a good song to begin with, but when young Ritchie Valens got ahold of it, it became a legendary favorite that goes down in Rock N Roll history. “La Bamba” was released on October 18, 1958 and peaked at number 22 on the US Billboard Hot 100. In 1987, the Los Lobos version of “La Bamba” peaked at Number One, with the popularity of the movie of the same name. At that time, Ritchie Valens was posthumously credited with the writing of a Number One hit song. (Of course, I’m posting Ritchie’s original version below.)
This melancholy tune was written by Ritchie for his sweetheart, Donna Ludwig. A beautiful tune, this song was at Number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 on February 3, 1959, the day Ritchie Valens died. Two weeks after Ritchie’s death, it peaked at Number 2. This song also boosted the popularity of the name Donna for baby girls in 1959.
“Come On Let’s Go”
This incredible, upbeat tune was also written by Ritchie Valens and released in September, 1958. I was surprised to find that this song only made it to Number 42 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It’s one of my favorites. “Come On Let’s Go” was covered by UK artist Tommy Steele, The McCoys and, of course, later in 1987 by Los Lobos, for the biopic La Bamba.
These three songs are far from the only recordings Ritchie Valens made. Each time I hear a tribute to him, I discover something even more amazing. I urge you to take a deeper look into the work of Ritchie Valens, if you haven’t already. He was truly a prodigy as well as a fantastic entertainer and quite possibly the best guitarist under 21 ever to have lived!
Thank you for reading my post on Ritchie. If you liked this post, you can follow Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era ever here on WordPress. You can also follow Retro Dee on Twitter @RealRetroDee and on Instagram @mariepascal82
Voting is now open for our annual “Summer Song Survey”. . You can pick 10 songs of the season, or favorites you remember from a barbeque, pool party, trip to the beach or other summer memories. Vote and find more details here.
Listen to “The Grooveyard” following “Rick’s Redneck Ranch” each Saturday night at 7 PM on 88.1 FM on Long Island or by clicking the 88.1 FM link on wcwp.org, via the TuneIn app. or the WCWP app on your iPhone or Android device. You can also follow us on Twitter. and on the Facebook groups for the show and WCWP.
Join us for the Greatest Hits and Forgotten Favorites on…