Ritchie Valens 1

Sadly the Latin presence in American rock and roll is not at all recognized. Most people only know about Ritchie Valens, who had a couple of hit songs back in the 1950’s, “Donna” (or Oh Donna) and La Bamba (the title of a 1987 biopic film about him, La Bamba starring Lou Diamond Phillips).  Along with the better known Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper, Valens died in the 1959 plane crash in Iowa that was immortalized in Don McLean’s haunting American Pie as The Day the Music Died.  
Totally unremarked upon in all this time, as far as I know, is that Ritchie Valens’ real last name is Valenzuela, the same as the legendary pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers Fernando Valenzuela.  In 1981, Valenzuela caught the imagination of the whole country when he won his first 8 games as a starting pitcher in his rookie season for the Dodgers, including 5 shutouts.  If the season hadn’t been cut short by the baseball strike that year, there is no telling how dominant he might have been; but to this day, he is still the only player in Major League Baseball history to have been awarded the Rookie of the Year award, the Cy Young Award, the Silver Slugger Award, and a World Series championship, all in the same season.  While “Fernandomania” was a distant memory to most people by the time La Bamba came out, Fernando Valenzuela had one of his best seasons the previous year (1986) and nearly won the Cy Young Award again.  
(January 2011)
Last edited: March 22, 2021