Richest CelebritiesRock Stars
Net Worth:
$500 Thousand
May 13, 1941 - Feb 3, 1959 (17 years old)
5 ft 6 in (1.7 m)
Singer, Guitarist, Songwriter
United States of America
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What was Ritchie Valens' Net Worth?

Ritchie Valens was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist who had a net worth equal to $500 thousand at the time of his death in 1959, after adjusting for inflation. Ritchie Valens was among the early pioneers of rock and roll and Chicano rock. His most famous hit song was "La Bamba," which he adapted from a Mexican folk song. On February 3, 1959, Valens was among the passengers killed in a plane crash in Iowa, with others including fellow musicians Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper. Valens was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6733 Hollywood Blvd. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Ritchie Valens passed away on February 3, 1959 at 17 years old.

Early Life

Ritchie Valens was born as Richard Valenzuela on May 13, 1941 in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, California to Mexican parents José and Concepción. He had two half-brothers named Bob and Mario, and two sisters named Connie and Irma. Growing up, Valens was exposed to traditional Mexican mariachi music, flamenco guitar, and rhythm and blues. He was encouraged early on by his father to take up the trumpet and guitar, and later taught himself how to play the drums. As a teenager, Valens went to Pacoima Junior High School and then San Fernando High School. It was during this time he began developing his fear of flying due to the 1957 Pacoima mid-air collision. Valens also played with his first band, the Silhouettes, that same year.


Valens was completely self-taught as a musician, and excelled at singing and playing guitar. He impressed his school classmates so much that one of them, Doug Macchia, sent a tip about Valens to Bob Keane, the president of the small record label Del-Fi. Keane subsequently went to see Valens perform in the San Fernando Valley; wowed, he invited him to audition at his home in Silver Lake. After the audition, Keane signed Valens to Del-Fi.

Given a full backing band consisting of such musicians as Carol Kaye, René Hall, and Earl Palmer, Valens entered Gold Star Studios to make his first recordings. At a single studio session in the summer of 1958, he recorded the original song "Come On, Let's Go" and a cover of Leiber and Stoller's "Framed." These recordings were almost immediately pressed and released, giving Valens his first taste of commercial success. Even more popular was his self-titled debut album, which included the hit songs "Donna" and "La Bamba." The record, which would be the final one to be released in Valens's lifetime, sold over one million copies.

Ritchie Valens via Getty


Valens was in a romantic relationship with his high school sweetheart Donna Ludwig from 1957 until his passing. His famous song "Donna" was written for her. Despite their love for each other, their relationship was strained by Valens's career obligations; the tension was compounded by the fact that Ludwig's parents disapproved of her dating a Latino man.

Death and Legacy

After performing in Clear Lake, Iowa on February 2, 1959, Valens, Buddy Holly, and the Big Bopper departed on a small plane from the Mason City airport. En route to Fargo, North Dakota, the plane crashed just minutes after takeoff in the early hours of February 3. The cause of the crash remains unknown. Upon impact, all three passengers as well as pilot Roger Peterson were killed. The tragedy later became known as the "Day the Music Died," a lyric from Don McLean's hit 1971 song "American Pie."

Despite only living to 17 years of age, Valens left behind a rich and enduring legacy. He is recognized as a major progenitor of the Chicano rock and Latin rock movements, and has served as an influence for such artists as Los Lobos and Carlos Santana. Many of his songs, including "Come On, Let's Go" and "Donna," have been extensively covered by other artists. Several albums containing his music were released posthumously, including "Ritchie" and "Ritchie Valens in Concert at Pacoima Jr. High." Valens has also been the subject of biographical films, most notably 1987's "La Bamba," in which he's portrayed by Lou Diamond Phillips.


There have been many tributes to Valens created over the years. In the 90s, his home neighborhood of Pacoima renamed Paxton Park in his honor. Also in Pacoima, many murals have been painted representing Valens, and the US Post Office in the area was renamed after him. A section of the Interstate 5 Freeway in the San Fernando Valley was renamed after Valens, as well, and in 2018 there was a celebration commemorating his legacy.

All net worths are calculated using data drawn from public sources. When provided, we also incorporate private tips and feedback received from the celebrities or their representatives. While we work diligently to ensure that our numbers are as accurate as possible, unless otherwise indicated they are only estimates. We welcome all corrections and feedback using the button below.
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