Valens, Ritchie, 1941-1959

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Ritchie Valens (born Richard Steven Valenzuela, May 13, 1941, Pacoima, CA–d. February 3, 1959, Clear Lake, IA) was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. A rock & roll pioneer and a forefather of the Chicano rock movement, Valens' recording career lasted eight months, as it abruptly ended when he died in a plane crash.

During this time, he had several hits, most notably "La Bamba", which he had adapted from a Mexican folk song. Valens transformed the song into one with a rock rhythm and beat, and it became a hit in 1958, 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 died in a plane crash in Iowa, an accident that also claimed the lives of fellow musicians Buddy Holly and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, as well as pilot Roger Peterson. Valens was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Valdez, Luis. La bamba! : the Ritchie Valens story ; a screenplay / by Luis Valdez. University of Missouri-Kansas City, Miller Nichols Library; Health Sciences Library; Dental Library
referencedIn Records of the Civil Aeronautics Board. 1931 - 1984. Minutes of Meetings. 1940 - 1984. Aircraft Accident Report National Archives at College Park
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Big Bopper, 1930-1959 person
associatedWith Holly, Buddy, 1936-1959 person
associatedWith Valdez, Luis. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Los Angeles CA US
Clear Lake IA US
Rock music


Birth 1941-05-13

Death 1959-02-03





Ark ID: w6fk073z

SNAC ID: 38698216