The Los Angeles City Council will proclaim May 13 as Ritchie Valens Day to mark the 75th anniversary of the birth of the late beloved rock 'n' roll pioneer behind hits like "La Bamba" and "Donna."
Born Richard Steven Valenzuela in Pacoima on May 13, 1941, Valens was surrounded by Mexican mariachi music, as well as flamenco guitar, rhythm and blues and jump blues. He also has a parked named after him in his hometown -- Richie Valens Recreation Center in the 10700 block of Laurel Canyon Boulevard.
Valens' father Joseph Valenzuela encouraged him to take up guitar and trumpet as a child, and Valens later taught himself to drum. Valens joined a dance band, the Silhouettes when he was 16 years old.
In May 1958, he auditioned for Del-Fi label owner Bob Keane, who spotted his raw talent. Under Keane's direction, Valens cut a few sessions at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles.
In his second session, he recorded the classic teen love ballad "Donna" and the song he would be most known for, "La Bamba."
Valens was touring the Midwest on Feb. 3, 1959 when the plane he was in crashed in an Iowa cornfield, killing him, along with Buddy Holly and J.P. Richardson, known as "The Big Bopper," in what would become known as "The Day the Music Died."