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Stretch of California highway to be renamed after rock 'n' roll pioneer Ritchie Valens this month

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesLate rock 'n' roll pioneer Ritchie Valens will be honored on August 25 when a stretch of the 5 Freeway that runs through his hometown of Pacoima, California, will be renamed after him.

The Ritchie Valens Memorial Highway will be inaugurated at a ceremony held during a daylong festival held at Ritchie Valens Park in Pacoima. The event, which will run from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. PT, will feature the unveiling of "Ritchie Valens Memorial Highway" signs, a screening of the 1987 Valens biopic La Bamba and musical performances. Among the musicians who will take the stage are Ritchie's brother Mario and cousin Ernie.

A message on Valens' official website reads, "This momentous occasion marks the powerful influence that Ritchie's life, music and legacy has had on this community and around the world. We his family are extremely proud of what our brother accomplished in his short life and career, almost 60 years ago. Ritchie's accomplishments continue to build bridges and inspire today's musicians."

Born Richard Valenzuela, the Mexican-American musician is considered one of the first Latin rock and Chicano rock performers.  Valens was just 17 years old when he scored hits with the enduring classic "La Bamba" -- an adaptation of a Mexican folk song -- and the ballad "Donna" in 1958.

Sadly, just a few months later, in February 1959, Valens was killed in the same plane crash that claimed the lives of Buddy Holly and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.

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