Trini Lopez, singer and Dirty Dozen actor, dies

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Trini Lopez in 1965Image copyright
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Lopez’s hits included If I Had A Hammer and Lemon Tree

Mexican-American singer Trini Lopez, who had a hit in 1963 with his version of If I Had A Hammer and played one of The Dirty Dozen, has died at 83.

Lopez, an accomplished guitarist, was mentored by Buddy Holly and Frank Sinatra and designed two instruments for the Gibson Guitar Corporation.

Lopez died in Palm Springs, California, of complications from coronavirus.

Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters was among those paying tribute, saying he had left “a beautiful music legacy”.

He called his own Trini Lopez guitar his “most prized possession” and said it had been “the sound of the 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 spotted by Holly, who recommended him to his producer Norman Petty.

Moving west, Lopez got a regular gig playing at PJ’s nightclub in west Hollywood. There, he caught the eye of Sinatra, who signed him to his record label and encouraged him to act.

His debut live album, Trini Lopez at PJ’s, was released in 1963 and featured his version of Pete Seeger’s If I Had A Hammer. The song made it to number three in the US and number four in the UK, and sold more than a million copies.

Image copyright
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Trini Lopez as he appeared in The Dirty Dozen

In 1966, Lopez was cast in The Dirty Dozen, a film about rogue soldiers being sent on a suicide mission during World War Two.

But he clashed with director Robert Aldrich and was written out of the film. His character, Pedro Jiminez, dies off-screen after a parachute jump.

Lopez recorded more than 60 albums and was a popular headliner in Las Vegas. He was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 2003 and was honoured on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars in 2008.

Singer Pat Boone remembered Lopez as “a great guy and wonderful friend”. He wrote on Facebook: “We both knew we were blessed to make a good living doing what we loved – making others happy!”

Business partner and musician Joe Chavira said he and Lopez just finished recording a song to raise money for food banks during the Covid-19 pandemic. “And here he is dying of something he was trying to fight,” Chavira told the Associated Press.

A documentary about his life, titled My Name is Lopez, is currently nearing completion.

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