La Bamba

In the 1987 movie La Bamba, who played the lead role of Ritchie Valens?

And the answer: Lou Diamond Phillips.    

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Filipino-American actor Lou Diamond Phillips' breakthrough came at the age of 25, when he was cast as Ritchie Valens in La Bamba. After he passed the audition, Phillips had to gain 15 pounds, as well as learn how to sing and play the guitar.

Born on a military base in the Philippines, Lou Diamond Phillips would go on to portray Ritchie Valens in the unsuspecting cult hit La Bamba in 1987. La Bamba tells the story of rocker Valens' rise to stardom in his teenage years before the tragic plane crash that took his life at age 17. Honoring Valens in La Bamba was an endeavor that had the full support of the late Ritchie's family. So much so, in fact, that Ritchie's real-life sister, Connie, began to think of Phillips as Ritchie himself. During filming, she even disrupted the scene in which Ritchie boards the plane by hysterically grabbing onto Phillips and shouting, "Don't go Ritchie! Please don't get on the plane! Why did you have to die?"

The movie was an instant hit and beloved homage to the late rocker Valens. Valens' tragic death, along with fellow musicians Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper, mark the end of an era of music referred to as "The Day the Music Died." Singer-songwriter Don McLean coined the phrase in his 1971 song "American Pie," launching a number of memorials in song and film.    

Listen to "La Bamba" below.

"Para bailar La Bamba
Para bailar La Bamba
Se necessita una poca de gracia
Una poca de gracia
Para mi, para ti, ay arriba, ay arriba
Ay, arriba arriba
Por ti sere, por ti sere, por ti sere"
"To dance the Bamba,
To dance the Bamba
One needs a bit of grace
A bit of grace for me, for you
Now come on, come on!
Now come on, come on!
for you I’ll be, for you I’ll be, for you, I’ll be."

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