More than 60 years after its release, Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” is getting recognized for its inimitable impact on U.S. popular culture. The National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress has just inducted the Chicano rock icon’s anthem into the registry along with 24 other culturally impactful works. According to the announcement, the inductees are chosen based on their “cultural, historical, and aesthetic importance.” Since 2000, the Library of Congress has inducted 25 albums or songs that are at least 10 years old. In the announcement, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said the organization “and its many collaborators are working to preserve these sounds and moments in time, which reflect our past, present, and future.”
Valens reworked the original son jarocho version of “La Bamba” into a rock song when he was 17. In 1959, the song summited the Billboard charts and made history, becoming one of the first Spanish-language songs to appear on the Hot 100 (known back then as the top 40). When Valens’ biopic was released in 1987, Los Lobos recorded a rendition of the song for the film, and “La Bamba” went no. 1 yet again. It introduced a whole new generation to Valens’ story and the original version of the song. Louie Pérez, one of the founding members and guitarist for Los Lobos, told the Library of Congress, “As a young boy growing up in East Los Angeles, I was curious and ultimately impressed by a rock song sung in Spanish — that song was ‘La Bamba’ by Ritchie Valens. It continues to be a hallmark in American music and an influence on all Latino music that followed.”
The other titles selected for this year’s registry include Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire, and the soundtracks to Hair and Schoolhouse Rock. Check out the full list of inductees here.