Soundtracks I Have Loved: La Bamba

Soundtrack: La Bamba
Year Released: 1987
I Bought It On: Cassette
How Does It Hold Up?: As well as the originals

1. La Bamba - Los Lobos
2. Come On, Let's Go - Los Lobos
3. Ooh! My Head - Los Lobos
4. We Belong Together - Los Lobos
5. Framed - Los Lobos
6. Donna - Los Lobos
7. Lonely Teardrops - Howard Huntsberry
8. Crying, Waiting, Hoping - Marshall Crenshaw
9. Summertime Blues - Brian Setzer
10. Who Do You Love? - Bo Diddley
11. Charlena - Los Lobos
12. Goodnight My Love - Los Lobos

I suppose it was the hours spent listening to CBS-FM in the car that made me want to see "La Bamba" so bad in the summer of 1987, because I can't really think of any other reason why a 10-year-old would be itching to see the life story of a musician who had died 28 years later. And though I can't recall who took me to see the movie, I'm pretty sure I saw it in the theater that summer--and bought the soundtrack soon after. I actually bought the 45 of "La Bamba"/"Charlena" first, probably after seeing the video on MTV. I actually forgot the gratuitous Lou Diamond Phillips appearance until now. It's also interesting to note that Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos hasn't really done all that much in the aging department; the other wolves have not fared as well.

However I got to "La Bamba"--the movie and the soundtrack--I'm glad I did, because I loved them both. And I still do. The movie's inexplicably underrated, and if Tinsel and Rot Hall of Famer Gary Busey can get nominated for an Oscar for "The Buddy Holly Story," then surely both Lou Diamond Phillips and Esai Morales should've gotten recognition for their work in the movie. Morales is particularly great as brother Bob. Some people may have left that movie with a fear of flying, but I left with a fear of Bob. I distinctly remember being scared out of my mind by him when I saw the movie the first time. In fact, I'm still a little scared when I see some scenes, and I think Bob may have steered me toward a life of sobriety. And I'm also in no rush to go to Tijuana. (By the way, if you ever want to see "La Bamba" with only Bob's scenes, YouTube's got you covered.)

Of course, when your movie's about music, the soundtrack is just as important as the movie itself. And "La Bamba" comes through, largely--but not entirely--on the strength of Los Lobos's eight songs on the soundtrack (and that's not counting "Rip It Up" and "Oh Boy," which didn't make the soundtrack but were in the movie...I'm not sure who had the honor of providing Bob's drum work). There's probably never been a band so perfect to do a movie's soundtrack, so everything sounds pretty good (though, to be honest, I would often fast-forward past "Charlena" and Goodnight My Love" on my cassette to get back to the more rockin' Side 1). But the best of the best is, well, shoot, I can't pick one. Let's call it a tie among "Come On, Let's Go," "Ooh! My Head," and "Framed."

But it's not just Los Lobos that makes the soundtrack. You can never go wrong with Bo Diddley, and the other three on Side 2 are equally impressive. Howard Huntsberry, who to the best of my Googling only found additional success essentially reprising his role on the soundtrack to "Ghostbusters II", has Jackie Wilson down pretty well on "Lonely Teardops."

Marshall Crenshaw does a similarly good job with both the sound and look of Buddy Holly on "Crying, Waiting, Hoping," which is playing as Ritchie makes that last call home before the plane leaves Iowa.

And Brian Setzer, well before he became The Annoying and Ubiquitous Brian Setzer, nails "Summertime Blues."

Of course, the soundtrack should've ended with Santo and Johnny's "Sleepwalk," but I guess that would've ruined the concept of newer artists doing versions of the older songs. But there's probably no song that makes me think more of "La Bamba" than "Sleepwalk." And if you don't well up when Ritchie's mom screams "Not my Ritchie!" and Bob yells out his brother's name at the end of the movie, you're a heartless douchebag.

So, here's to "La Bamba," the movie and the soundtrack. And here's to Ritchie Valens, who it's hard to imagine never made it past 17 and still put out some unforgettable music. I think he's got Bieber beat.

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