Today is the fiftieth anniversary of a small-plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, which killed three rock and roll musicians: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J P "The Big Bopper" Richardson. Generally considered to herald the death of innocence for the explosive new musical genre, it has been immortalized by singer-songwriter Don McLean in his 1971 song "American Pie" as "the day the music died."
Ritchie Valens (born Richard Steven Valenzuela) was the singular pioneer of "Chicano rock," even though his professional career lasted less than one year before his untimely death. He is best known for his 1958 hit "La Bamba," an updating of a Mexican folk song. In the first video clip, we see the East LA band Los Lobos perform the title song from the soundtrack of the 1988 movie named for the song. The part of Valens was played by Lou Diamond Philips, who also appears in the video. The second clip is a scene from the movie itself, where Ritchie Valens auditions for his first band.
The opening licks for the Los Lobos arrangement of "La Bamba" makes for good garage band material, so this post would not be complete without a lesson, or at least a preview. In this iVideosongs title, instructor Steve Rieck shows you how to play it. While the song and guitar solo are relatively simple, the use of barre chord fingerings will challenge beginner-level players. Be sure to put down a mere $4.99 for a download of the genuine article at iVideosongs.com.
The 1959 tragedy was arguably a factor, in the downward trend of popularity for the anarchic "rock and roll" sound. A generation of teenagers who thought they and their heroes could stay young forever and never die, got a dose of reality with that incident, combined with the induction of Elvis Presley into the Army, and the blacklisting of Jerry Lee Lewis. (Something about marrying his underage cousin.) The next several years heard a softer, gentler sound on the pop charts, with male baby-face crooners and female baby-doll sirens, virtually all of them as white as white-bread America. By the early 1960s, when a group of four young men from an English seaport town approached Decca Records, they were told that guitar bands like theirs were already on the way out. They managed to ignore that advice, and the edge in popular music rose again -- as our fourth video clip will attest.
But as CNN reported this past week, the way things were back then are still remembered in Clear Lake, Iowa.