Why is Ritchie Valens’ Ritchie Valens on my best 1,000 albums ever list?
Simply classic late 1950s rock n’ roll and simply great. Come on, let’s go.
What does Ritchie Valens mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?
La Bamba, the biopic about the short, inspiring, and ultimately tragic life of Ritchie Valens, was on cable television a lot when I was a kid. Which meant I watched it a lot. It was good, sure, but it was also on, you dig?
In truth, it’s one of the best biopics out there, largely because of the perfect casting of Lou Diamond Philips in the title role. A little bit more about the movie below (and maybe a lot about Joe Pantoliano, somehow?).
And like any good biopic, it’s the music itself that often takes center stage. “La Bamba” the song, of course, is the one that Valens is best known for, and with good reason.
How cool is it, too, looking back to the late 1950s and seeing a song that is the definition of classic rock ‘n roll — but also has Spanish language lyrics and Latin-flavored percussion — become an absolute smash and all-time hit in the United States and beyond?
Valens’ crooning sounds fantastic, and if La Bamba is to be believed, this is a love song written for Valens’ girlfriend that is both poignant and tragic in retrospect (more on this below as well).
So many of the songs on Ritchie Valens make “classic rock ‘n roll” pop into my head, as you may have noticed already, and so it goes again for “Come On, Let’s Go.” You can just feel crowds of teens way back in the day going nuts at live shows for this one.
Pop culture stuff that’s somehow related to Ritchie Valens
As it happens and as things fell in place on the best 1,000 albums ever project, I recently wrote about Buddy Holly’s 20 Golden Greats: Buddy Holly Lives (#791 of best 1,00 albums ever), who was on the same plane with Valens and The Big Bopper on a tiny plane that crashed, killing all aboard, on a winter’s night in 1959.
Different topic, getting back to La Bamba the movie: it blew my mind a little bit to note that Joe Pantoliano is in it, playing music executive or A&R type person Bob Keane.
Looking at Pantoliano’s IMDB page, I probably saw him for the first time playing a character named Snake in the rather good movie, Running Scared, which came out in 1986. But he remained a “that guy” for me until his standout turn in The Fugitive movie from 1993 (which, if you were around back then, you’ll recall what a big deal that movie was).
While Pantoliano is at least really good in everything, and particularly so in indie flicks like Bound and the first, great Matrix movie, for my money his iconic role is Ralph Cifaretto on The Sopranos. One of the truly great, three-dimensional, sympathetic at times but fundamentally evil bad guys in television history.
Some stats & info about Ritchie Valens
- What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Pop Music, Rock Music
- Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
- All Music’s rating – 4 out of 5 stars
- When was Ritchie Valens released? 1959
- My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #773 out of 1,000
Ritchie Valens on Spotify
What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?
Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.
But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.