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Ritchie Valens: Age 17 | Cause Of Death: AIRPLANE CRASH/ HELICOPTER

(b. Richard Steve Valenzuela, 13 May 1941, Los Angeles, California, USA, d. 3 February 1959, Iowa)

Valens was the first major Hispanic-American rock star, the artist who popularized the classic ’50s hit La Bamba.  Valens also performed solo and was heard by Bob Keane of Del-Fi Records, who took him into Gold Star Studios to record several songs. (Keane also shortened the singer’s name from Valenzuela to Valens and added the ‘t’ to Richie).  In October 1958 the single Donna/’La Bamba’ was issued. It was actually the ballad Donna, written by Valens about his high school friend Donna Ludwig, that was, contrary to popular belief, the side of the record which was the bigger hit, reaching number 2. La Bamba, the b-side, only reached number 22 in the USA but is the more fondly-remembered song. It was on 3 February 1959 when he, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper were killed in an airplane crash following a concert in Clear Lake, Iowa.  Newspaper Story To buy the book:   Ritchie Valens: The 1st Latino Rocker