1001 Songs Challenge,  1950s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #93: La Bamba (1958)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…


Ritchie Valens – La Bamba (1958)

La Bamba (song)

” La Bamba” ( pronounced ) is a Mexican folk song, originally from the state of Veracruz, best known from a 1958 adaptation by Ritchie Valens, a top 40 hit in the U.S. charts and one of early rock and roll’s best-known songs.

Learn more about this song (via Genius)


We’re over the Atlantic to Mexico today where today’s song originated and became a real classic from the late 1950s when a version was recorded in the US. It originated in Veracruz and was a popular Mexican folk number, often used at weddings. Ritchie Valens was persuaded to give the song a rock and roll flavour and the US listeners soon found themselves dancing to La Bamba.

For the purposes of this musical odyssey I sought out a translation to La Bamba from its original Spanish. The Bamba of the title refers to a type of Mexican dance and Valens sings of dancing the Bamba and how one needs grace to be able to do so. At one stage he also sings of not being a sailor, but being a captain, before shifting back to a celebration of the Bamba once more. The translation was interesting to look into but there’s no question the song sounds better in its native tongue.

La Bamba is a well known song thanks to Valens’ original and the cover versions that have followed. A film of the same name was released in 1987 and was a biopic of Valens’ life. This would be his most well-known song in what was, sadly, a very short career. Valens was on the same plane that took flight on 3 February 1959 with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper, only to crash shortly after take-off with all three musicians and the pilot being killed on impact. Valens was just 17 years old. What these three men could have gone on to achieve will never be known but Valens, like Holly, forever imprinted his name in rock and roll history.


Favourite songs so far:

Edith Piaf – La Vie en Rose (1946)

Elmore James – Dust My Broom (1952)

Little Richard – Tutti Frutti (1955)

Elvis Presley – Heartbreak Hotel (1956)

Fats Domino – Blueberry Hill (1956)

Johnny Cash – I Walk the Line (1956)

The Louvin Brothers – The Knoxville Girl (1956)

Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (1958)

Cliff Richard & The Drifters – Move It (1958)

Ritchie Valens – La Bamba (1958)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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