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14 Reasons Ritchie Valens Remains A Rock 'N' Roll Legend

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1. His music stands the test of time.

Public Domain / Creative Commons / Via en.wikipedia.org

Ritchie Valens died on Feb. 3, 1959, his career lasting mere months (he was signed to Del-Fi Records on May 27, 1958), but his music still resonates today.

2. He wrote "Donna," which is probably the single sweetest tribute to a high school love.

View this video on YouTube

Del-Fi Records / Via youtube.com

The perfect song for slow-dancing while staring deep into someone's eyes, "Donna" was written for Ritchie's real-life girlfriend, Donna Ludwig. Sigh.

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4. He took a traditional song, "La Bamba," and made it all his own.

View this video on YouTube

Del-Fi Records / Via youtube.com

6. He made sacrifices in order to do what he loved.

Columbia Pictures / Via thebigtino.com

After he was signed to Del-Fi, the label's owner, Bob Keane, encouraged Ritchie to change his name from Richard "Richie" Valenzuela to Ritchie Valens, because 1) there were already "a bunch of 'Richies' around at that time," and 2) he wanted Ritchie to appeal to a wider audience, and felt his last name would hinder that. Nonetheless, he remains an icon whose Mexican-American heritage is recognized as an important part of his identity and music.

7. Though his career was too brief, he continues to inspire artists decades after his death.

View this video on YouTube

Columbia Pictures / Via youtube.com

Genre-bending bands like Los Lobos (who appeared in La Bamba) and Los Lonely Boys continue to be influenced by Ritchie, and his music has been covered by the likes of The Ramones and The Misfits, among many others.

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9. He appeared in the rock 'n' roll classic Go, Johnny Go!

Moviepix / Via Getty Images

Alongside some other people you may have heard of...like Chuck Berry. Here's an image of Ritchie hanging out on the movie set, looking dapper.

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