Ritchie Valens (Richard Steven Valenzuela; May 13, 1941 – February 3, 1959) was an 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, however, he scored several hits, most notably "Donna" which peaked at #2 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart; and, the flip side "La Bamba", which was originally a Mexican folk song that Valens transformed with a rock rhythm and beat. Both songs charted in early 1959, 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 was killed in a small-plane crash in Iowa, an event that also claimed the lives of fellow musicians Buddy Holly and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.