Valens wrote this about his girlfriend, Donna Ludwig. They were both high school students at San Fernando High, and started dating in 1957 after meeting at a party where Valens was playing. They stayed together until Valens died in the plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly on February 3, 1959. Valens won a coin toss to get a seat on the plane, beating Tommy Allsup, who was a member of Holly's band.
A 17-year-old Ritchie Valens recorded this in Los Angeles just a few months before his death. His first recordings came in May 1958, resulting in his first single, "Come On, Let's Go," which made #42 US in November. "Donna" became his breakout hit, entering the charts on December 15, 1958 and peaking at #2 on February 23, 1959.
According to Donna Ludwig (who later became Donna Fox), Valens told her that he was writing a song about her, but the first time she heard it was on the radio in her car. Her girlfriends went justifiably crazy and got even more excited when the DJ played it again.
The B-side of this single was "La Bamba," a traditional Mexican song Valens' producer Bob Keane suggested. "La Bamba" charted at #22 on February 7, 1959, but became Valens' best known song in 1987 when Los Lobos recorded it for the movie La Bamba, and it became a #1 hit in America.
A sound-alike version was used in a Visa commercial where a man is getting a tattoo with the name of his girlfriend, Donna. He runs out of money and is left with a tattoo reading "Don."
This song is used in an episode of That '70s Show when Eric and Donna break up. It is playing on the radio when Eric is lying in bed all day.
Suggestion credit: David - Reno, NV
A month after Valens died, Marty Wilde's cover of this song hit #3 in the UK.
Secoya from Mesa, AzI love this song I watched the movie La Bamba and it was so sad.... and Donna was my favorite song out of the whole movie... Donna the song is so sweet
Alma from Laredo, TxTo Chet, Los Lobos paid great tribute to Ritchie Valens.
Alma from Laredo, TxLos Lobos honored the late great Richie Valens. They shared some of the same poor upbringing. I believe the did a great justice to his legacy. Richie Valens would be proud.
B. from Rochester, NyThe sound alike version of "Donna" heard in the Visa commercial was sung by ex-TNT lead singer Tony Harnell.
Angela from Fort Benning, GaI wasn't alive when Ritchie Valens was popular, but my Momma used to listen to Ritchies music all the time. I loved it & the first time I heard the song "Donna" The way he sings it just melts my heart. He's the greatest! Not to mention he was a hunk.
Valerie from Eureka, CaI was 10 yrs old when Ritchie Valens (Valenzuela) died. I lived in Jacksonville, FLA. I remember the oldest daughter of the family I lived with crying all day and playing Buddy Holly's records over and over. The radio station she was listening to kept a marathon of Holly's and Valens' music going all day. I recall walking outside and decided then and there I would never forget that it was an overcast day in Jacksonville and that I would NEVER get on an airplane. A year later I was boarding a plane to fly to New York with my own family. Walking to the plane, I could only think of the plane crash that took the lives of Holly, Valens and Richardson. Because of that incident, I have always been in fear of flying. I have flown across country 3 times since...terrified each time. Funny how some things leave lasting impressions on us, isn't it?
Bob from Roseville, CoDonna is a real estate agent for Centry 21 in Fair Oaks Ca.
Steve from Salt Lake City, UtJust think how much more $$$ "Donna" & "La Bamba" would have made had they been released separatly instead of as both sides of a single!
Mike from Anytown, CaOriginally written as "Oh Don!" in dedication to Donald Pollock, radio broadcasters shunned do to its possible politically incorrect message, and the single and refused to give it air time. Captain Jett, Auburn, CA
Chet from Saratoga Springs, NyI refuse to listen to the version by Los Lobos on my LP on the La Bamba soudtrack out of respect for the late, great, underrated muscian Richard Valenzuela....