the Bamba singer Ritchie valens would have turned 80 today, and fans of the late rock and roller are paying homage to him online. Known for his classic hits like “La Bamba”, “Come On, Let’s Go!” and “Donna”, the legendary musician sadly passed away at the age of 17 along with Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and pilot Roger Peterson in a plane crash in 1959. The event became widely referred to as “The Day When the music is dead ”, thanks to a song tribute to the singers of Don McLean.
Valens was portrayed by Lou Diamond Philips in the 1987 biopic the Bamba. Chronicle of Valen’s fleeting rise to stardom and sudden death, the acclaimed film was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2017. Last week, Phillips responded to someone on Twitter criticizing the casting of the Filipino-American actor as a Mexican. -American in the biopic, which was made with the full support of the Valenzuela family.
“Cool! Too bad you weren’t there in 1986 when Chicano writer / director Luis Valdez picked me,” Phillips said. “Or when the Valenzuelas, Ritchie’s family, endorsed me in the role. I’m sure they would have appreciated your genuine contribution. But, oral, ese, better late than never!
Ritchie’s family, including his brother Bob and mother Connie (played by Esai Morales and Rosanna DeSoto in the film, respectively) worked directly with the cast to ensure the characters were portrayed accurately. Valens’ mother even has an appearance in the film sitting next to him at a family reunion. The family also developed a particularly close bond with Phillips and even started calling him Ritchie on set.
When the film was subsequently screened with the cast and crew, Ritchie’s younger sister Connie – who was only six at the time of the fatal accident – reportedly panicked during the film. As Lou diamond phillips got on the plane in one of the final scenes, Connie grabbed Phillips and begged him not to get on the plane, asking him why he had to die. She later explained on VH-1 Behind the music that it made her realize that she had never recovered from Ritchie’s death.
“My brother was a rock & roll pioneer, despite all the odds against him,” says Connie in a new interview with Rolling Stone. “He wasn’t the right color, he wasn’t the right size, he wasn’t the right age – but that didn’t matter. He had a good heart, he had the drive, he had passion. And he paved the way for all people of color and all ethnicities. “
Phillips added, “Ritchie was a rock and roll pioneer, and that’s without reservation. His music touched a whole generation. [his story] talking to a community is truly the American dream of Latinos. “
Many Ritchie fans pay tribute on social media as well. Because he was so young and was only just beginning his music career, we can only think of what could have been without the “Day the Music Died”. Although he is gone, his memory shines just as brightly decades later, and Valens will be forever remembered. Happy Heavenly Birthday, Ritchie.