La Bamba – Ritchie Valens | Top 40 Chart Performance, Story and Song Meaning

Chart Performance: Pop (#22); 1959

Story Behind The Song By Ed Osborne

Early on the morning of February 3, 1959 a plane carrying teen stars Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens crashed near Mason City, Iowa, killing all aboard. Ritchie, a long way from his home in sunny California, didn’t like flying. Yet, he hated the bitter cold and the broken down bus carrying the stars of the Winter Dance Party tour even more. So when he won seating on a small plane from Waylon Jennings in a coin toss, he thought it was his lucky day. In an ironic way it was. The hit record chart dated February 2nd showed his current single Donna solidly lodged at #2. La Bamba, the record’s flip side, was also doing well. In 1987 a film bio of Ritchie was named after it, and Los Lobos’ spirited version of La Bamba made Ritchie’s song a #1 hit single – 28 years after its creator’s untimely death.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2023 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.

Produced by:

  • Bob Keane

Lyrics Written by:

  • Traditional, adapted by Ritchie Valens


  • Nominated for a Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1988
  • Ranked number 345 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time