My parents left me home with a babysitter once as a kid and she put on the movie La Bamba – remember that one? Lou Diamond Phillips plays chicano rock and roll star Ritchie Valens who gets famous based on his lovely ballad Donna in which he just says Oh Donna over and over and over again (this must be where I learned my songwriting skills a la Leave Me Alone). I didn’t get it as a kid but this was controversial because Donna was GASP a white woman and Ritchie was GASP latino.
I do not remember at all why I loved this movie so much but I did so my parents eventually bought me the cassette tape. For a period of probably six years, they had to buy a new VHS and cassette tape every six months because I’d literally wear them out from use.
I also loved the tragic irony of La Bamba. There’s an entire plot point in the movie about how Ritchie is irrationally afraid of flying in airplanes. His manager makes it possible for him to travel only by bus and he gets a good career going, the song La Bamba is so quintessentially ROCK AND ROLL. It just wails. Even though I couldn’t understand or sing the lyrics as I didn’t speak Spanish, I always felt like the song was speaking to me. I sang along in non-words so much that my parents would make me put on headphones and lock myself in the basement as to not disturb the whole house.
House does a pretty fucking awesome punk style version of this song now and it makes me so very happy. I never learned Spanish, I still don’t know what the song is about and I’m quite certain I’m not singing it correctly when I do perform it. But I FEEL it.
Feelings can transcend language.