Mexican-American singer Trini Lopez, who had huge success in 1963 with the If I Had A Hammer version and played one of The Dirty Dozen, passed away at the age of 83.
Lopez, a talented guitarist, was mentored by Buddy Holly and Frank Sinatra and designed two musical instruments for the Gibson Guitar Corporation.
Lopez died in Palm Springs, California, from complications of the coronavirus.
Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl was among those paying tribute, saying he left “a beautiful musical legacy”.
He called his own Trini Lopez “the most valuable possession” and said it was “the sound of Foo Fighters from day one”.
Born in Dallas to Mexican parents in 1937, Lopez formed his first band at the age of 15. He was discovered by Holly, who introduced him to producer Norman Petty.
Moving west, Lopez has a regular performance played at PJ’s nightclub in western Hollywood. There, he caught the eye of Sinatra, who signed a contract with his record label and encouraged him to act.
His debut live album, Trini Lopez at PJ’s, was released in 1963 and included the If I Had A Hammer version by Pete Seeger. The song took third in the US and fourth in the UK, and sold over a million copies.
In 1966, Lopez was cast in The Dirty Dozen, a film about rogue soldiers sent on a suicide mission during World War II.
But he clashed with director Robert Aldrich and was dropped from the film. His character, Pedro Jiminez, died off-screen after parachuting.
Lopez has recorded more than 60 albums and is a famous artist in Las Vegas. He was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 2003 and was honored on the Las Vegas Avenue of Stars in 2008.
Singer Pat Boone remembers Lopez as “a great guy and a great friend”. He wrote on Facebook: “We both knew we were lucky to make a good living with what we love – making others happy!”
Business partner and musician Joe Chavira said he and Lopez had just completed recording a song to raise money for the food banks during the Covid-19 pandemic. Chavira told The Associated Press: “And here he is dying of something that he is trying to resist.
A documentary about his life, titled My Name is Lopez, is currently nearing completion.
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