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

Come on, let's go.

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1. His music stands the test of time.

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.
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.

3. You can't listen to "Come On, Let's Go" without wanting to dance.

Del-Fi Records / Via youtube.com

Go on, try it. See? It's science.

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

5. And he looked adorably uncomfortable posing in front of a glittery backdrop.

As would we all.
Michael Ochs Archives / Via Getty Images

As would we all.

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.

8. He was truly a musical genius.

Ritchie was self-taught, experimenting with playing the guitar, the trumpet, and the drums at a young age, and experimenting with blending a number of musical influences from Mexico and the U.S.
rollingstone.com / Via izquotes.com

Ritchie was self-taught, experimenting with playing the guitar, the trumpet, and the drums at a young age, and experimenting with blending a number of musical influences from Mexico and the U.S.

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

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.
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.

10. And he accomplished all this before even turning 18.

He was a prodigy, through and through.
Redferns RB / Via Getty Images

He was a prodigy, through and through.

11. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Not too shabby, Ritchie. (He's seen here posing with Del-Fi president Bob Keane. And having great hair.)
Redferns Gilles Petard / Via Getty Images

Not too shabby, Ritchie. (He's seen here posing with Del-Fi president Bob Keane. And having great hair.)

12. Dude had style.

Del-Fi Records
Del-Fi Records

THAT SUIT. THAT HAIR.

13. La Bamba, a biopic about his career, family life, and death, is definitely worth your time.

Columbia Pictures

Lou Diamond Phillips, you the real MVP.

14. He's the capitán.

Never forget it.
SuperDuty11 / Creative Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

Never forget it.

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