Birthday: May 13, 1941
Girlfriend: Donna Ludwig
Died At Age: 17
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Richard Steven Valenzuela
Born Country: United States
Born in: Pacoima, Los Angeles, California, United States
Famous as: Singer
Height: 5'7" (170 cm), 5'7" Males
father: Joseph Steven Valenzuela
mother: Concepcion Valenzuela
siblings: Bob Morales, Connie Lemos, Irma Norton, Mario Ramirez
Died on: February 3, 1959
place of death: Clear Lake, Iowa, U.S.
U.S. State: California
Cause of Death: Plane Crash
education: San Fernando High School, Pacoima Middle School
Richard Steven Valenzuela, who later came to be known by his stage name Ritchie Valens, was an American rock and roll prodigy who went on to establish a new genre of music by introducing Mexican tunes into mainstream music. Valens was a prodigiously talented musician who had learnt to play the guitar when he was still a child. In fact, he showed great interest in creating music when he was only five years old. Valens started off as a musician by joining a band when he was still in school. His rare talent became visible to music producers who were always on the hunt for new talent. Ritchie Valens went on to record his first album when he was only 16 years old and some of his most famous songs are ‘La Bamba’ and ‘Donna.’ Though Valens started off as a guitarist, it was not long before he was able to write and compose his own songs. Even as a teenager, he was invited to music festivals along with other established musicians. Valens died at a very young age due to an accident and the day of his death has been known as ‘The Day the Music Died.’
Childhood & Early Life
Ritchie Valens was born Richard Steven Valenzuela on 13 May 1941, in San Francisco Valley, Los Angeles, California, USA, to Joseph Steven Valenzuela and Concepcion Reyes. His parents were of Mexican origin and Valens grew up listening to traditional Mexican music.
Valens went to ‘Pacoima Junior High School’ and music was his passion from an early age. Ritchie Valens’ father Joseph supported him wholeheartedly and he learned to play the guitar along with the trumpet.
Richard Valens quickly mastered the guitar. By the time he was 16, he had become the member of a band called ‘The Silhouettes’ where he played the guitar. Later on, he also became the vocalist of the band.
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In 1958, Bob Keane, the owner of a recording company named ‘Del-Fi Records,’ took interest in Ritchie Valens and signed him up right after his first audition. It was Bob Keane who asked him to change his name to Ritchie Valens.
Ritchie Valens’ earliest recordings were done in ‘Gold Star Studios,’ situated in Hollywood, and the songs were featured in an album titled ‘Ritchie Valens - The Lost Tapes’ which was published by ‘Del-Fi Records.’ Two well-known tracks from that album are ‘Ritchie’s Blues’ and ‘Donna.’ The song ‘La Bamba’ became a huge hit later on.
Ritchie Valens left school in the year 1958 to concentrate on his music career. Bob Keane of ‘Del-Fi Records’ became his promoter and was responsible for setting up his shows and programs. Throughout the year, he performed on television and stage. He appeared on the show ‘American Bandstand’ and did shows in Hawaii, New York, and Philadelphia.
Ritchie Valens had become one of the most well-known stars in the industry by the time he was 17. He was asked by Alan Freed to appear in his film ‘Go Johnny Go’ in a minor role.
In early 1959, Ritchie Valens was invited to be a part of the ‘Winter Dance Party Tour’ across the Midwestern part of America. It was meant to be a traveling musical act, featuring several artists. The artists braved terrible conditions and many of them were taken ill, but Ritchie Valens performed to the best of his abilities. He also played the drums during the tour.
Ritchie Valens had a very short career as a musician. However, he had great talent and produced a large body of work that is enjoyed by music lovers to the present day. His most famous and important work was his song ‘La Bamba’ which was released in 1958. Although it was a remake of a Mexican song, it was Valens’ improvisation that made the song the hit that it eventually went on to become.
Awards & Achievements
Ritchie Valens did not win any major awards during his lifetime, but his talent and impact on the music industry was beyond question as he was the first musician who brought Mexican music to the fore. He was inducted into the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ in 2001.
Personal Life & Legacy
Ritchie Valens did not get married. However, he was in a relationship with a girl named Donna Ludwig when he was in school. She was the subject of the hit song ‘Donna.’
Ritchie Valens died in a plane crash while flying with two fellow musicians on 3 February, 1959. He was traveling in a chartered flight from Clear Lake, Iowa. That day came to be known as ‘The Day the Music Died.’