In Rock and Roll lore, February 3, 1959, is known as “The Day the Music Died.” On that day, a small airplane carrying Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson, better known as the “Big Bopper,” and Richie Valens of “La Bamba” fame crashed, killing all three of the men as well as the pilot.
Among the people who took the news hard was a teenager in Billings, Montana, named Chan Romero. Romero and Valens had some important things in common: They were both seventeen years old and they shared a Latino heritage.
This, in addition to Romero’s musical talent, caused many people to view Romero as Valens’ successor. It didn’t turn out that way, but as Romero would tell you, his life turned out very well, indeed.
Shortly after Valens’ death, a recording of Romero’s music made it into the hands of Valens’ manager, Bob Keane. Keane liked what he heard and saw, and invited Romero to move out to Los Angeles where he signed him onto Valens’ old label.
That’s not the only thing that Romero shared with his idol. Valens’ grieving mother invited Romero to stay with her when he was in Los Angeles, and regarded him as a surrogate son of sorts.
During this time, Romero released his one and only hit, “The Hippy, Hippy Shake.” It did better overseas, especially in Britain, than it did in the United States. Yet, if its name sounds familiar that’s probably because among its British fans were four lads from Liverpool named John, Paul, George and Ringo.
The Beatles’ performed Romero’s song on the BBC a week after their famous appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. A version by another Liverpool band, “The Swinging Blue Jeans,” reached the top of the U.K. charts a year later.
Versions of the song have been featured in movies such as “X-Men,” “Austin Powers,” and “Angels in the Outfield.”
Yet, as the profile of Romero on public radio’s “Latino USA” program told listeners, Romero’s career didn’t last very long. By the mid-1960s he was pretty much out of the rock and roll business. But something the reporter said caught our attention: “Some people might think of Chan as a ‘one-hit wonder,’ but his life hasn’t revolved around the pop charts.”
You can probably guess what came next: he “found Christianity in 1967.” These days, while he sometimes performs his old stuff, which is enjoying a renewed popularity among some music fans, as he told “Latino USA,” “I mostly write Gospel music.” He also sings at church and helps his daughter lead worship.
As the reporter put it, Chan Romero, the father of eleven children, is “content.”
“Content?” Where have I heard that word before? Oh, yes, as Paul told the Philippians, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”
Chan Romero didn’t become the next Richie Valens. As “Latino USA” suggests, he may not have even had the chance to become the first Chan Romero, if your standard were his musical aspirations.
What he seems to have become was the man God intended him to become: Christian, husband, father, and grandfather. The kind of person who can look back at his life with contentment.
If as the Psalmist says, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom, then trusting that God knows what’s best for us is the source of all contentment. Although, of course, occasionally shaking your hips can’t hurt.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: April 11, 2016