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Ritchie Valens Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Trivia (19)

Overview (4)

Born in Los Angeles, California, USA
Died in Clear Lake, Iowa, USA  (plane crash)
Birth NameRichard Steven Valenzuela
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Ritchie, the 'California Kid' was from a family of poverty stricken fruit pickers and was the first rock star to originate from the West Coast and one of the innovators of 'Latino rock. In an eight month career he scored three hits with 'Come On Let's Go', 'Donna' and 'La Bamba' before being killed in an air crash on February 3rd 1959 which also took the lives of Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper.. He was just 17. Associate producer Daniel Valdez spent 2 1/2 years searching for Ritchie's family then discovered them living just 15 minutes from where he lived. He then spent months learning all about Ritchie before writing a script which he gave to the family for their approval and with it filming went ahead. The part of Ritchie went to the then 25 year old unknown Lou Diamond Phillips who put on 15lbs to get a chubbier face and learned how to sing and play the guitar after he'd past the audition. During the filming Lou married his own 'Donna' Julie Cyphers who was a production assistant on 'La Bamba'.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Tonyman 5

Trivia (19)

Died in a plane crash at age 17 along with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper (Jiles Perry Richardson). An investigation determined the cause of the crash was "pilot error"; the pilot was not qualified to fly by instruments, and the plane took off by snowstorm. Despite later urban legends, the plane was not named the "American Pie"; it had no name.
The date of his death (February 3, 1959) was forever immortalized as "The Day the Music Died" in the song "American Pie" by Don McLean.
His hit song "Donna" was named after his high school sweetheart Donna Ludwig.
Was one of the performers featured on a set of stamps of rock and blues legends issued by the United States Postal Service in June 1993.
Posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2001).
Despite having his most popular hit with "La Bamba", an adaptation of a Mexican folk song, Valens did not speak Spanish.
He was attending Pacoima Junior High School in Pacoima, California, on January 31, 1957, when a mid-air collision occurred between an Air Force fighter plane and a civilian passenger plane high above the school. Debris from the crash fell on the school, killing three students--one of whom was Valens' best friend. He developed an intense fear of flying after that, and would fly only when absolutely necessary. Ironically, he died in an airplane crash two years after the incident.
Parents were Steven Valenzuela and Connie Valenzuela.
Is mentioned in the song "Life Is a Rock But the Radio Rolled Me" by Reunion.
At the time of his untimely death, he had a two-sided hit, "Donna" (US #2) / "La Bamba" (US #22)--the only time a singing star, in the rock era, had a top 10 hit at the exact time of his/her death.
He was posthumously awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 6733 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on May 11, 1990 (two days before what would have been his 49th birthday).
Early in his career, Bruce Johnston, later of The Beach Boys, was a fellow band member. The Beach Boys have credited Ritchie as one of their influences.
His appearance in Go, Johnny, Go! (1959), filmed sometime in 1958, appears to have been filmed before his recordings of "Donna" and "Come On, Let's Go", as he is singing in the style of Little Richard. He had not yet adapted his own vocal style that he used on his later 1958 recordings. Interestingly, "Framed", the B-side to "Come On, Let's Go", is a reworking of Little Richard's "Miss Ann", but there Ritchie sounds more like the Ritchie Valens that his fans came to know.
In the trailer for Go, Johnny, Go! (1959), he is seen briefly performing on stage, with no sound. In the actual film, he is performing "Ooh My Head" in a coffee shop. This may suggest that another song was left on "the cutting room floor".
On December 27, 1958, he appeared on The Dick Clark Show (1958), live from New York City from 7:30-8:00 pm. Also on that show were Jackie Wilson, The Crests, Jimmy Clanton and The Diamonds. At that time, Ritchie and others were also appearing at the Lowe's State Theater, as part of Alan Freed's ten-day holiday show. After their performances on "The Dick Clark Show", at the Little Theater, Ritchie and the other performers traveled a few city blocks, within New York City's Times Square area for their nightly revue at the Lowe's State Theater.
Following his untimely death, he was interred at San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, Los Angeles, California.
In June 1988, a 4-foot tall granite memorial bearing the names of pilot Roger Peterson, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) was dedicated outside the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. The event marked the first time that the families of Holly, Valens, Richardson and Peterson had gathered together.
He inspired many musicians of Mexican heritage, including Jimi Hendrix, Chan Romero, Robert Quine, Carlos Santana, Chris Montez, and Keith O'Connor Murphy, among others. Had long been acknowledged as a pioneer of Chicano rock and Latin rock.
Ritchie Valens was raised hearing traditional Mexican mariachi music, as well as flamenco guitar, rhythm and blues, and jump blues.

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