Ritchie Valens is perhaps best remembered today for his foot-stomping, Mexican-American Spanish language classic “La Bamba.” But his biggest hit on the charts was actually the sweet love song “Donna,” written in honor of Donna Ludwig, Valens’s high school romance. It was a Billboard number two hit in 1959. Valens and Ludwig remained in touch as his career took off, and he went on tour. When he died tragically in the same plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper on February 3, 1959, Donna stayed in touch with his family and was a great comfort to them.
Unbelievable but true, Ritchie Valens was only 17 years old when he was killed. His shockingly brief music career, lasting only eight months, was nevertheless enough to win him a place among the timeless legends of rock ‘n’ roll.
“Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney
One of the most acclaimed songwriters of the 20th century, Paul McCartney has been responsible, both with his Beatles partner John Lennon and as a solo artist, for many of the most beloved songs of all time. And his love songs are on another level. “Maybe I’m Amazed” was one of his first releases as a solo artist, and it thanks his wife Linda for her unwavering support as the Beatles was breaking up. Paul wrote many songs for his beloved Linda, to whom he was married for almost 30 years until she passed away from breast cancer in 1998.
The original studio version of “Maybe I’m Amazed,” recorded as a solo performance, was never released as a single. A few years later, when Paul was the leader of the popular band Wings, they performed the song live and released it as a huge international smash hit single.
“Man on the Moon” by REM
REM’s 1992 hit “Man on the Moon” is filled with just about every sort of cultural reference. But the center of gravity that they all revolve around is comedian Andy Kaufman. When Andy wanted to be funny, you would laugh, whether on Saturday Night Live, on Taxi, or on any of his many guest appearances. The song was written by various members of REM, though the lyrics were mostly written by lead singer Michael Stipe. Bass player Mike Mills has said that Andy Kaufman is the perfect guide for a journey through questioning the accepted truths of our culture. His own cryptic and inscrutable nature made it fitting that through him, you would see the cultural contradictions.
“Man on the Moon” was a top 40 hit in 1992 and has remained among the most loved and best remembered of REM’s repertoire. When in 1999, director Milos Forman decided to make a movie about the life of Andy Kaufman, it was a natural choice to use the title of the REM song as the name of the movie.
“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash
The only thing better than writing a song in honor of your beloved is writing four, then putting them together into a classic suite of songs. That’s exactly what Steven Stills did for the 1969 debut album of his folk-rock band Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The lady in question was fellow folk singer-songwriter Judy Collins, whom Stills dated from 1967 until 1969. The title of the song is a play on the homophonic nature of the word “suite” since the composition is a musical suite, and it can also be pronounced as “Sweet Judy Blue Eyes” since Collins was known for penetrating blue eyes.
Crosby, Stills, and Nash famously performed the song at the Woodstock festival. Still wrote the song as his relationship with Collins was coming to an end, and the lyrics, for the most part, deal with his feeling about her as well as the coming breakup.
"Cinderella" by Mac Miller
Ariana Grande and Mac Miller dated from 2016 (when Grande made the big announcement on social media) until 2018. After they broke up, Mac Miller released a very explicit song called “Cinderella” that includes many racy details of his relationship with the “Thank U, Next” singing sensation. The song also features rapping by Ty Dolla $ign. Grande has admitted that even some of the x-rated lyrics do, in fact, describe her relationship with Miller. So even though the relationship is no more, at least we all have this song forever and ever to remember them as a couple.
Sadly, just months after the breakup and the release of “Cinderella,” Mac Miller died of an apparent drug overdose on September 7, 2018. In her hit song, “Thank U, Next,” her first number-one, Ariana Grande calls Miller an “angel.”