Donna (Ritchie Valens song)

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Ritchie Valens Donna single.jpg
Single by Ritchie Valens
from the album Ritchie Valens
B-side"La Bamba"
ReleasedDecember 1958
Format45 record
RecordedDecember 16, 1958
GenreRock and roll
LabelDel-Fi 4110
Songwriter(s)Ritchie Valens
Ritchie Valens singles chronology
"Come On, Lets Go" / "Framed"
"Donna" / "La Bamba"
"Fast Freight" / "Big Baby Blues"

"Donna" is a song written by Ritchie Valens,[1] featuring the 50s progression.[2] The song was released in 1958 on Del-Fi Records.[3] It was Valens' highest-charting single reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart the following year. (Stagger Lee by Lloyd Price was at number one.)[4] It was written as a tribute to his high school sweetheart Donna Ludwig.

Valens' version[edit]

The song was recorded on December 16, 1958, at the Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles. Bob Keene is listed[5] as having been the leader of the session, which included Earl Palmer on drums; Buddy Clark on bass; and Valens, Rene Hall, Irving Ashby, and Carol Kaye on guitars.

"Donna", the second Ritchie Valens single released, was the A side of the influential song "La Bamba". This single was only one of three, along with the previous single ("Come On, Let's Go"/"Framed" – Del-Fi 4106) and the follow-up ("Fast Freight"/"Big Baby Blues" – Del-Fi 4111) ever released in Valens' lifetime. Original Del-Fi pressings of "Donna"/"La Bamba" include black and sea green labels with circles, later replaced with solid sea green or solid dark green labels. Early 1960s pressings have black labels with sea green "sawtooth" outer edge.

Valens' version was positioned at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart when Valens died. Three weeks after Valens' death, the song peaked at No. 2.

Other versions[edit]

Answer song[edit]

Within days of the death of Valens, in February 1959 Brooklyn songwriters and record producers Bob Feldman and Jerry Goldstein recorded and released (as The Kittens[9]) "A Letter to Donna" (Unart UR2010),[10] that used Valens' tune but with new lyrics they wrote themselves with "John Ottowa" (a pseudonym of Jack Lewis[11]), that sent a message to Valens' girlfriend, Donna Ludwig.[12]

Samples and other uses[edit]

New York rapper and Wu-Tang affiliate Cappadonna sampled the refrain in the song "Oh-Donna" off his debut album The Pillage.

The song was used in a television commercial for Visa. In the commercial, a man is getting his arm tattooed with his girlfriend's name on it. He asks midway through the procedure how much it will cost, and discovers that he does not have enough money to cover the cost. He leaves with the tattoo unfinished, and Donna runs away upset. The tattoo says "Don", and the song changes to "Oh Don", to which the man remarks sarcastically, "Very funny".

The song was featured on the soundtrack for the Mafia II video game. It was played repeatedly in an episode of That '70s Show after Eric and Donna break up.

The song is covered in a political advertisement run on television in Hawaii in July 2014 by the campaign of Donna Mercado Kim.[13]


  1. ^ Rockin' Country Style Archived March 12, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Hirsh, Marc (December 31, 2008). "Here's an easy way to see if a song uses the Sensitive Female Chord Progression - The Boston Globe". The Boston Globe. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  3. ^ Neely, T: "Goldmine Price Guide To 45RPM Records"
  4. ^
  5. ^ Ritchie Valens , “Ritchie Valens in Come On. Let’s Go” Del-Fi Records, CD liner notes
  6. ^ "Cliff Richard's US chart positions". Allmusic. Retrieved 2013-04-21.
  7. ^ "Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart - Cliff Richard". Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  8. ^ The Youngbloods, High on a Ridge Top Retrieved June 12, 2015
  9. ^ "THE KITTENS / EZRA & THE IVIES / BOBBIE & THE BEAUS" (March 10, 2013).
  10. ^ "45 Discography for Unart Records". Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  11. ^ Library of Congress. Copyright Office, Catalog of Copyright Entries (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1960):291.
  12. ^ Beverly Mendheim, Ritchie Valens: The First Latino Rocker (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 1987):115, 153.
  13. ^ "Non-Existent Domain". Retrieved December 21, 2016.

External links[edit]