La Bamba singer Ritchie Valens would have turned 80 today, and fans of late rock and roller pay tribute online. Known for his classic hits like “La Bamba”, “Come On, Let’s Go!” and “Donna”, the legendary musician sadly died at the age of 17 along with Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and pilot Roger Peterson in a plane crash in 1959. The event is commonly known as “The Day the Music Died” thanks to a tribute about the singers by Don McLean.
Valens was famously played by Lou Diamond Philips in the 1987 biopic La Bamba. The critically acclaimed film, which chronicles Valen’s short-lived rise and sudden death, was added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry in 2017. Last week, Phillips responded to someone on Twitter who criticized the Filipino-American actor’s cast as Mexican. -American in the biopic, made with the full support of the Valenzuela family.
“Cool! Too bad you weren’t there in 1986 when Chicano writer / director Luis Valdez cast me,” said Phillips. Or when the Valenzuelas, Ritchie’s family, supported me in the role. I’m sure they would have appreciated your authentic input. But orally, better late than never! ‘
Ritchie’s family, including his brother Bob and mother Connie (played by Esai Morales and Rosanna DeSoto respectively in the film), worked directly with the actors to ensure the characters were portrayed accurately. Valens’ mom even made a cameo appearance in the movie sitting next to him at a family gathering. The family also developed a particularly close relationship with Phillips, even calling him Ritchie on set.
When the film was later shown with cast and crew, Ritchie’s younger sister Connie – who was only six years old at the time of the fatal crash – is said to have panicked during the movie. As Lou Diamond Phillips In one of the final scenes, Connie got on the plane, grabbed Phillips and begged him not to get on the plane, asking why he had to die. She later explained it on VH-1s Behind the music that this made her realize she never overcame Ritchie’s death.
“My brother was a rock & roll pioneer despite all the possible setbacks,” Connie said 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 it didn’t matter. He had the right heart, he had the drive, he had the 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 qualification. His music has touched an entire generation. [his story] speak to a community, it truly represents the American dream for Latinos. “
Many Ritchie fans also pay tribute on social media. Since he was so young and just starting his music career, we can only think about what could have been if the “Day the Music Died” hadn’t happened. Although he’s gone, decades later his memory still shines just as brightly and Valens will be remembered forever. Happy birthday, Ritchie.