Giving Back a Little of What They Got from Ritchie

Attorney Ruben Salazar and music artist Jimmy Espinoza help organize & celebrate an official LA tribute to Ritchie Valens

By Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: August 9, 2016

Giving Back a Little of What They Got from Ritchie

After a long trial & tribulations of efforts in negotiating, hoping, networking, connecting and re-connecting, researching, a little more hoping, and a lot of reminiscing through memories & music, LatinoLA is proud to support the Richie Valens Foundation and announce their success: May 13th will now be officially recognized throughout Los Angeles and the Land of 1000 Dances as Ritchie Valens "Let's Go Rock & Roll" Day as a direct result of their efforts.

Friday morning, August 12, 2016, the family of Ritchie Valens will be honored guests at the City of Los Angeles City Council Chambers as May 13th will be proclaimed Ritchie Valens "Let's Go Rock & Roll" Day ... a milestone in American music history as a remembrance for Ritchie Valens and Rock & Roll music, dedicated to aspiring Angelenos of all races, and musical enthusiasts around the World who wish to follow their dreams through the art of music.

Then, later that same day there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony, reception, and memorial concert starting at 3:00 PM at Ritchie Valens Park in Pacoima featuring L.A. music greats Jimmy Espinoza of Thee Midniters, Rudy Salas of TIERRA, Texas's Jesse Flores of Vudu Cafe, music producer/guitarst Roy Z. Ramirez, and a special video performance & message from Los Lobos, who are currently on tour.

The fruits of these efforts will be felt & appreciated no less greater than the World than by the founders of The Ritchie Valens Foundation, a non-profit public benefit corporation whose mission it is to shore up the diminishing school music/art programs throughout Los Angeles by inspiring, connecting, and bringing youth closer to their dreams in a career in music with scholarships to stimulate positive changes in music & arts programs in colleges & trade schools, as well as grades one through twelve.

Ritchie Valens, born Richard Steven Valenzuela on May 13,1941, remains a rock & roll icon and beloved musical hero among Mexican-Americans for many reasons ... one of the most impressive is that he became a nationally recognized American Rock & Roll music star at the age of 17 by singing a traditional Spanish language Mexican folk song infused with American rock & roll rhythms, and it became a national million seller, something nobody had ever done in any language at the time (1958).

Yes, we're talking about La Bamba.

Secondly, he broke the mold for Mexican musicians in America in the late 1950's by proving that Mexicans could be adept, if not outright magnificent and innovative, performing English language Rock & Roll and Rhythm & Blues music heard on radio stations across America, something unheard of by non-whites at the time .... all before his 18th birthday!

His untimely death in 1959 has left an enigma and conjectures of "What ifs?" ever since, as we approach what would have been his 76th birthday, and we continue to miss & mourn the loss of a young musical genius who has inspired and motivated 4 generations of Latino musicians, fans, and Latino flavored music ever since.

As one of those fans & music lovers, I can honestly say that I bear witness to the artistic, emotional, uniting, influential, and inspiring power of the art of music in my short 61 years on this cool planet in this great country of ours!

During a recent concert in East Los Angeles (featuring popular Latino American performers, produced by Ray Carrion and hosted by Thee Mr. Duran) I ran into 2 of the influential people involved in this week's events, attorney Ruben Salazar (a founding member of the Ritchie Valens Foundation) and music legend Jimmy Espinosa of THEE MIDNITERS Band ... and they took a little time to talk with LatinoLA.

Ruben Salazar, a successful Civil Rights lawyer and strong advocate for the RAZA and the working class, is also a certified Music Lawyer, Business Consultant, music producer, song writer, and musician. He is also known as strong & regular supporter of live music throughout the Los Angeles area. We've been friends for a couple of years, as he has supported my efforts, as well as the efforts of others, in the L.A. music scene,for many years. He's also an honorably discharged brother U.S. Marine, so you KNOW we hit it off!

"I come from a tough neighborhood & violent Barrio background in L.A.," Ruben tells LatinoLA, "But as a troubled youth, I was fortunate to have the advantages of education and the Arts offered to me, inspiring me, and my life has thus taken a fortunate turn for the better as a result of that exposure ... but because of recent budget cuts in Los Angeles & State educational systems, the Arts programs, music specifically, are being shamefully diminished, depriving the youth of today that fortunate exposure I scored on that took my life in a better direction. To me, that's a crime!"

Ruben continues, "When co-founders of the Ritchie Valens Foundation Roy Z. Ramirez and Krisna C. Velasco and I first got together, we had this vision of doing something great for the Mexican American community that we came from, giving something back, and making an impact in young people's lives. We pooled together our talents, experience, and music connections, hooked up with the Valenzuela family and L.A. City Councilman Felipe Fuentes, and made the vision a reality ... it's like a dream come true for me and the foundation."

Musician, songwriter, and bandleader Jimmy Espinoza, leader of the Legendary East Los Angeles Band THEE MIDNITERS, tells LatinoLA, "When I was approached by Ruben to join in this effort, I was truly honored and humbled ... I've been a lover of Richie Valens music all my life! What he started back in the 1950's has carried on for over 4 generations, and continues to this day. His music and the way he went about it touched and inspired a lot of us ....f rom Thee Midniters to SANTANA to El Chicano to TIERRA to Los Lobos and countless other hot Latino bands over the years. Richie Valens showed the World that Latinos got what it takes to make good music in America, and we've all followed his lead ever since."

Jimmy adds, "We need to feel comfortable with our proud culture, and the fact that we are Americans in America! I've gone through all the titles in my lifetime -- Chicano, Mexican, Mexican American, Latino, Hispanic, Latin, and a few "not so nice" ones -- whatever ... I now refer to myself as an American Patriot Artist from the proud Mexican-American culture ... but AN AMERICAN nonetheless!

"In these troubled political times we're living in right now, we need NOT be so tribal, which slows us down and keeps us divided. I'm 72 years old, and part of the first generation of English language performing Mexican American music artists from the West Coast inspired by Ritchie Valens ... I've seen and experienced a lot ... and I'm so fortunate to see Ritchie Valens get his due during my lifetime!"

Plans include connecting with popular music artists to help coach and inspire music students, seeking monetary as well as instrument donations in addition to offering scholarships, putting on fundraiser concerts, inviting and involving parents & the community from all walks of life, and hopefully establishing a permanent base from which to expand their mission of keeping the music alive for future generations while honoring Ritchie Valens and generations past....

...it's all about the gift of the Art of music, Mi Gente!

And with that, LatinoLA salutes the Richie Valens Foundation in their efforts, and wishes them unbridled success in the Land of 1000 Dances !

Author's Note: For more information: www.ritchievalensfoundation.org

About Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme is the Al Capone of the Microphone & Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul heard daily on World wide Internet Radio station www.eastLArevue.com. He is a regular contributor to this fine web magazine since 2002
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