La Bamba (song): Wikis


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"La Bamba"
Single by Ritchie Valens
A-side "Donna"
Released October 1958
Format 7"
Recorded 1958
Genre Latin/rock/pop
Length 2:06
Writer(s) Beau Ryan
Producer Bob Keane
Ritchie Valens singles chronology
"Come On, Let's Go"
"Donna" / "La Bamba"
"Fast Freight / Big Baby Blues"
"La Bamba"
Single by Los Lobos
from the album La Bamba Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
B-side "Charlena"
Released July 1987
Format CD single, 7"
Genre Latin/rock/pop
Length 2:54
Label Warner Bros. Records
Writer(s) William Clauson
Producer Los Lobos
Los Lobos singles chronology
"Come On, Let's Go"/"Ooh! My Head"
"La Bamba"
"Down on the Riverbed"

"La Bamba" 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.


Traditional origins

Influenced by Spanish flamenco and Mexican rhythms, the song uses the violin, jarana jarocha, guitar, and harp. Lyrics to the song greatly vary, as performers often improvise verses while performing. However, versions (such as those by musical groups Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan and Los Pregoneros del Puerto) have survived because of the artists' popularity and have become the "definitive" versions. The traditional aspect of "La Bamba" lies in the tune itself, which remains the same through all versions. The name of the dance, which has no direct English translation, is presumably connected with the Spanish verb bambolear, meaning "to shake" or perhaps "to stomp".

The traditional "La Bamba" was often played during weddings in Veracruz, where the bride and groom performed the accompanying dance. Today this wedding tradition is mostly lost, but the dance survives through the popularity of ballet folklórico. The dance is performed in much the same way, displaying the newly-wed couple’s unity through the performance of complicated, delicate steps in unison as well as through creation of a bow from a listón, a long red ribbon, using only their feet.

The "arriba" (literally "up") part of the song suggests the nature of the dance, in which the footwork, called "zapateado", is done faster and faster as the music tempo accelerates. The repeated lyric, "Yo no soy marinero, soy capitán" (lit: "I am not a sailor, I am a captain"), refers to Veracruz's marine locale and the husband's promise that he will remain faithful to his wife.

Esperanto usage

At many gatherings, including the youth conventions of Esperanto (IJK, Internacia Seminario), one traditionally dances to "La Bamba" in a circle. People dance in the circle and people dance out of it. The people within the circle can take a place in the outer circle by kissing one of the people dancing in it, after this ritual one swaps places. Multiple versions are used for this, Spanish as well as partly or completely sung in Esperanto.[1]

Valens' version

The traditional song inspired Ritchie Valens' rock and roll version "La Bamba" in 1958. Valens' "La Bamba" infused the traditional tune with a rock beat, in part provided by drummer Earl Palmer, making the song accessible to a much wider population and earning it (and Valens) a place in rock history (inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001). The song features a simple verse-chorus form. Valens, who was proud of his Mexican heritage, was hesitant at first to merge "La Bamba" with rock and roll, but then agreed. Valens obtained the lyrics from his aunt Ernestine Reyes and learned the Spanish lyrics phonetically, as he had been raised from birth speaking English. Valens' version of "La Bamba" is ranked number 345 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is the only song on the list not sung in English. The song also ranked #98 in VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Rock and Roll and #59 in VH1's 100 Greatest Dance Songs of Rock and Roll, both done in 2000.

In popular culture


Chart (1959) Peak
U.S. Billboard Pop Singles 22[2]
UK Singles Chart 49[3]
Chart (1987) Peak
Australian Kent Music Report 1
Austrian Singles Chart 3
French Singles Chart 1
Irish Singles Chart 1
Italian Singles Chart 1
New Zealand Singles Chart 1
Dutch Singles Chart 2
Norwegian Singles Chart 4
Swedish Singles Chart 3
Swiss Singles Chart 1
UK Singles Chart 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks 57
U.S. Billboard Hot Latin Tracks 1
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 11
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 4


The tune of "La Bamba" was used to promote 101, a cigarette that was Chesterfield (cigarette)'s extra-long brand. To emphasize its difference from the other extra long brands which were all 100 mm long, commercials in the late 1960s for 101 cigarettes used the phrase "a silly millimeter longer" sung to the tune of "La Bamba".

See also


  1. ^ YouTube - Jomo-koncerto, IJK 2008: "La Bamba" en Esperanto
  2. ^ allmusic ((( Ritchie Valens > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles )))
  3. ^ Chart Stats - Ritchie Valens - La Bamba
Preceded by
"Who's That Girl" by Madonna
UK number one single (Los Lobos version)
July 28, 1987
Succeeded by
"I Just Can't Stop Loving You" by Michael Jackson & Siedah Garrett
Preceded by
"Who's That Girl" by Madonna
Billboard Hot 100 number one single (Los Lobos version)
August 29, 1987 - September 12, 1987
Succeeded by
"I Just Can't Stop Loving You" by Michael Jackson and Siedah Garrett
Preceded by
"Ahora Te Puedes Marchar" by Luis Miguel
Billboard Hot Latin Tracks number one single (Los Lobos version)
September 19, 1987 - October 31, 1987
Succeeded by
"Ahora Te Puedes Marchar" by Luis Miguel
Preceded by
"Joe le taxi" by Vanessa Paradis
French (SNEP) number one single (Los Lobos version)
October 17, 1987 - December 26, 1987
Succeeded by
"Étienne" by Guesch Patti
Preceded by
"Laisse parler les gens" by Jocelyne Labylle and Cheela featuring Jacob Desvarieux and Passi
Belgian (Wallonia) number-one single (Star Academy 4 version)
October 18, 2003 - November 8, 2003 (4 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Hey oh" by Tragédie


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