A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with the family and I don’t know what my dad said, but I remembered going to the Orpheum Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles to see La Bamba when it came out in 1987. The theatre was packed, everyone was all dressed up. Back then, my family use to do movie nights in downtown, when the theatres were still open, my dad would buy me nachos with the melted cheese and I would have to share them with my little sister. It was cool, she mostly liked chocolate so I had the nachos all to myself. Anyways, I was reminded of how excited my parents were to see La Bamba come out on VHS. They bought it right away. In Spanish! So, out of nowhere, I had this sense of urgency to go buy it!
Well, it had been sitting unopened in my living room and I finally had some time and popped it in my dvd player.
It’s not that I had forgotten how good this movie was, but I appreciated it in a whole new different way. First off, WHAT ABOUT BOB?!!!!
Isea Morales, who played Bob, Ritchie’s brother, is one of the most underappreciated actors of our time. His performance in this movie was crazy and insanely beautiful. I felt his pain and the hurt in his eyes. He seriously should have been nominated for something.
But come on, 1987? Isea was ahead of his time for the Latino Hollywood boom that we see now. I did not even know Luis Valdez, one of most acclaimed writers of our time wrote and directed this wonderful movie. As I devoured the special features, he said it best, this movie was about family, brothers, and making your American Dream come true. In the beginning we see Ritchie working as a farm worker and Valdez says, “amidst those farm worker, there was a rock star” wow.
Talk about it being REAL. Here was this 17 year old kid raised in the San Fernando valley, right out of a farm to Pacaima, to become one of the greatest song writers and performers of Rock and Roll.
And the best part of it is that it’s all true!
Ritchie, who didn’t even know Spanish, tells his agent, “If Nat King Cole can sing in Spanish, why cant I?” when his agent tells him that singing in Rock in Roll in Spanish is a terrible idea. Ritchie Valens went on to write music history by recording one of Rock and Rolls most famous songs, “La Bamba”.
It’s been 11 years since I had seen this movie, and my dad had bought me the cassette when I was little, so off course, I know all the songs!
I found myself whispering, don’t get on that plane Ritchie, don’t do it!!!
But sadly, he does, and the plane goes down, making his nightmare of dying in a plane crash a reality. In the same flight with him – none other than Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper. Three legends in Rock and Roll. As the headline reads, it was Buddy Holly who told him “Relax Ritchie, the sky belongs to the stars”.
La Bamba was nominated for a Golden Globe, Best Drama, but lost to “The Last Emperor”. Isea really should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor. He was amazing. Lou Diamond Phillips was mesmerizing, wasn’t all that found of the actress that played Donna, but Rosanna De Soto, who played Ritchie’s mom was a wonderful Chicana. Luis Valdez did an amazing job.
I love love love this movie. There is something infectious in the music. It’s real, its pure and it has soul. Music like that… is rare these days.
If you have not seen this movie, or need a refresher, take an afternoon to relax and enjoy it. Life really is precious, and Ritchie knew how to live it. Even if for a short while.