Arago: Exhibits

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Musician: Ritchie Valens

In an all too brief career, Latin rock and rhythm composer and singer Ritchie Valens was the first Chicano rock and roll star. Valens was born Richie Valenzuela in 1941 in Pacoima, California, an area north of Los Angeles where he lived his entire life. He learned to play a guitar and joined a band in high school. Valens later met Del-Fi Records producer Bob Keane and recorded "Come On, Let’s Go." He also wrote a song for a girl he liked and named it for her; “Donna” was a nationwide hit and earned Valens an appearance on American Bandstand.

At the age of 17, Ritchie Valens was killed in a plane crash on February 3, 1959, along with Buddy Holly, J. P. Richardson (the “Big Bopper”), and pilot Roger Peterson. At the time of his death, Valens biggest hit, “Donna” was number two on the pop charts and "La Bamba" had hit the charts 26 days before his death. On March 19, 2001, Ritchie Valens was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

29c Richie Valens single

Valens is remembered on a 29-cent stamp in the Legends of American Music (rock and roll, rhythm and blues) series issued June 16, 1993.