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Ritchie Valens

Born May 13

by Legacy Staff

Rock ‘n’ Roll pioneer Ritchie Valens left quite a legacy for someone whose recording career lasted only eight months. We remember Valens’ life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.

Rock ‘n’ Roll pioneer Ritchie Valens left quite a legacy for someone whose recording career lasted only eight months. Valens died in a plane crash at age 17 on “The Day the Music Died,” along with fellow rockers Buddy Holly and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. Valens was a huge influence on the Mexican-American rock movement. Valens had a huge hit song in 1958 with “La Bamba.” He adapted a Mexican folk song and added the driving rock sound to create his well-known version. The song reached No. 22 on the Billboard charts and has been covered by many other musicians. We remember Valens’ life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.

Click to discover notable people who died this day in history including Hollywood legend Doris Day.


1981: Michael Mantenuto, the former actor and college hockey player played Jack O’Callahan in the 2004 Disney film “Miracle,”  is born in Holliston, Massachusetts.

1967: Melanie Thornton, U.S. singer with La Bouche who had hit singles including “Be My Lover” and “Sweet Dreams,” is born in Charleston, South Carolina.

1965: Lari White, popular country music singer, is born in Dunedin, Florida.

1950: Danny Kirwan, former guitarist for Fleetwood Mac, is born in Brixton, England.

1950: Manning Marable, U.S. professor and author who won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” is born in Dayton, Ohio.

Manning Marable (Photo by Mario Tama/Staff/Getty Images News)Two decades in the making, the nearly 600-page biography is described as a re-evaluation of Malcolm X’s life, bringing fresh insight to subjects including his autobiography, which is still assigned in many college courses, to his assassination at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan Feb. 21, 1965. The book is based on exhaustive research, including thousands of pages of FBI files and records from the CIA and U.S. State Department. Marable also conducted interviews with the slain civil rights leader’s confidants and security team, as well as witnesses to his assassination. Read more

1943: Mary Wells, U.S. singer well-known for R&B songs including “My Guy” and “You Beat Me to the Punch,” is born in Detroit, Michigan.

Mary Wells (Wikimedia Commons/20th Century Fox Records)By 1964, the world was falling in love with Motown – and with Mary Wells. The label’s records were making a splash on the British charts, and when the Beatles were asked who their favorite American singer was, they named Wells. In fact, the Lads from Liverpool so admired her music that they invited her to open for them on their U.K. tour. Wells agreed and crossed the pond, making her the first Motown star to perform in the United Kingdom. Later, Wells recorded a tribute album on which she sang some of her favorite Beatles songs. Read more

1941: Ritchie Valens, U.S. singer-songwriter known best for “La Bamba,” is born in Los Angeles, California.

Rock singer Ritchie Valens is shown in this 1959 photo. It's been 50 years since a single-engine plane crashed into a snow-covered Iowa field, instantly killing three men whose names would become enshrined in the history of rock 'n' roll, Buddy Holly, 28-year-old J.P. Though Valens was young when he died, he was already an accomplished musician, one who would become legendary for his pioneering mix of Latin sounds and rock ‘n’ roll music. He was the first Latino musician to achieve true mainstream success, and his hit songs influenced generations of musicians who followed him, from Carlos Santana to Los Lobos to Selena and more. And he left behind a string of singles that remain beloved today. Read more

1937: Beverly Owen, actress who was the first Marilyn on “The Munsters,” is born in Ottumwa, Iowa.

1923: Red Garland, U.S. jazz pianist who was a member of the Miles Davis Quintet, is born in Dallas, Texas.

1922: Bea Arthur, U.S. actress known best for starring roles on “Maude” and “The Golden Girls,” is born in New York, New York.

Arthur’s TV success began with an appearance on “All in the Family.” The producers loved her so much that they created a new show just for her: “Maude.” The show wasn’t afraid to take on the hot-button issues of the day, and Maude always put her own tough-as-nails, feminist spin on them. The episode dealing with Maude’s pregnancy – and her decision to have an abortion – is legendary for its frankness and its fearless take on a hotly contentious topic. Read more

1914: Johnnie Wright, U.S. country music singer who was one-half of the popular duo Johnnie & Jack as well as the husband of singer Kitty Wells, is born in Mount Juliet, Tennessee.

Johnny Wright (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)Wright remembered WSM going on the air in 1925 and heard the first broadcast of Uncle Jimmy Thompson, an event that would evolve into the Grand Ole Opry. Later on, he started his own career and married Wells, the first woman to break through as a star in country music, in 1937. Read more

1914: Joe Louis, U.S. professional boxer who was the world heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949, is born in Lafayette, Alabama.

1842: Arthur Sullivan, English composer who, with partner W.S. Gilbert, wrote operas including “H.M.S. Pinafore” and “The Pirates of Penzance,” is born in London, England.

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