A modest hit for Ritchie Valens
in 1959, "La Bamba" is a traditional Mexican folk song popular at weddings and other celebrations. When Los Lobos recorded it for the 1987 biopic about Valens, their version became a massive hit and popularized the song with a new generation.
Based in Los Angeles, Los Lobos formed in 1973 and released their first major-label album in 1984, which earned critical acclaim and a following for the band on the West Coast. When we spoke with their founding member Louie Perez
in 2012, he explained: "The reason why we got involved in the first place is because we were asked by the Valens family if we would do this. It came from his mom and his sisters who had to give their blessing to the filmmaker and director to make this movie. They said, 'We want Los Lobos to do it.' By then we had picked up a little speed. We had a couple of critically acclaimed records, and we had a couple songs that were played on the radio, but no big hit. So for us it was doing it for them and for the legacy of this young Chicano kid who really pioneered. I mean, how bold was it back then in 1959 to take a Mexican song and make it into a rock tune, rock arrangement, and sing it in Spanish? That was pretty damn brave."