Ritchie Valens, everyone knows the words to “la Bamba” in one of two ways; either you know the Spanish or you know just when to say “la Bamba”. Like most music that has traveled through time “La Bamba” has served as gateway to explore the time in which it came from. By using “La Bamba” as a stepping stone I dove into the music of Ritchie Valens. I chose the oldest collection of music I was able to find; an album simply titled “Ritchie” from 1963. The album immediately drew me in with its opening song “Stay Beside Me”, a slow 6/8 tempo love song paints a beautiful, tranquil scene. The song really makes a it’s presences known with the use of echo on Valens’ voice. The second track entitled “Cry Cry Cry” really goes the other way and picks up the tempo to immediately established a strong energy that is always really present during the song, especially during the guitar solo.
The album continues on with a mix of slow and energy songs. The album also contains a number of instrumentals like “Ritchie Blues”, “Big Baby Blues” and “Fast Freight”. As much as I enjoy the music of Ritchie Valens and many other artists at the time, I have to say that many songs seem very similar. Of course I understand that all these musicians were highly influenced by musicians that preceded them, so to end up creating music that sounds similar was bound to happen. But personally I find it difficult to listen to a 12 bar blues progression so often. I appreciate the beauty that is found in songs like “Stay Beside Me” or “We Belong Together” which is a later song of Ritchie Valens. But, the fact that so many songs follow the same mold makes this style or time of music lose its novelty quickly. I counter my opinion of Ritchie Valens and any artist at this time by acknowledging that I am in fact spoiled by the massive amounts of music that is available in today’s world.
Personal interest and taste aside, Ritchie Valens was a great and talented musician. His music is honestly enjoyable. In this very modern world that I live in, his music is able to transport me to a different time. whether it’s an instrumental blues or a love song his music creates a truly enjoyable experience. But like all things Ritchie Valens music should be enjoyed in moderation.
By Alfredo Hernandez