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Ritchie Valens (born Richard Steven Valenzuela; May 13, 1941 – February 3, 1959) was a Mexican-American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. A rock and roll pioneer and a forefather of the Chicano rock movement, Valens' recording career lasted only eight months. During this time, he had several hits, most notably "La Bamba," which was originally a Mexican folk song. Valens transformed the song into one with a rock rhythm and beat, and it became a hit in 1958, making Valens a pioneer of the Spanish-speaking rock and roll movement.
On February 3, 1959, on what has become known as "The Day the Music Died," Valens died in a small-plane crash in Iowa, a tragedy that also claimed the lives of fellow musicians Buddy Holly and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. Valens was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.