Trini Lopez, the guitarist and singer whose renditions of “If I Had a Hammer” and “Lemon Tree” climbed the charts in the 1960s and an actor who appeared in films including The Dirty Dozen, has died of complications from COVID-19, the Hollywood Reporter reports. He was 83.
The news was confirmed to THR via Lopez’s songwriting and business partner Joe Chavira. The pair had recently finished a song called “If By Now,” which was intended to benefit food banks during the pandemic. “And here he is dying of something he was trying to fight,” Chavira told the Associated Press.
Born Trinidad Lopez III in Dallas, Texas to parents who were from Mexico, Lopez began his music career at the age of 15, when he formed his first band. One of his groups, The Big Beats, signed to Columbia, before he struck out on his own as a solo artist and he signed to King Records in the late Fifties. After releasing several singles that failed to chart, he left the label and soon after began a residency at Los Angeles club PJ’s. Frank Sinatra caught Lopez performing during his residency and in 1963, Sinatra signed Lopez to Reprise Records.
Lopez’s 1963 Reprise debut, a live album called Trini Lopez at PJ’s, produced several hits, including his rendition of “If I Had a Hammer,” written by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays that hit Number One and eventually achieved gold status, and his version of the Will Holt-penned “Lemon Tree.” The album also included his take on the traditional Mexican song, “La Bamba.” He continued to release albums and hits through the Sixties as well as performed nightclubs throughout the U.S., including regular stints as a Las Vegas headliner.
He also designed two guitars for Gibson, The Trini Lopez Standard and the Lopez Deluxe, which were produced from 1964 through 1971. His guitars are prized by musicians, including Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl.
“Today the world sadly lost yet another legend, Trini Lopez. Trini not only left a beautiful music legacy of his own, but also unknowingly helped shape the sound of the Foo Fighters,” Grohl tweeted via the Foo Fighters’ Twitter account. “Every album we have ever made, from the first to the latest, was recorded with my red Trini Lopez signature guitar. It is the sound of our band, and my most prized possession from the day I bought it in 1992. Thank you, Trini for all of your contributions.”
Alongside his music career, Lopez also pursued acting. In 1967, he starred alongside an ensemble cast that included Charles Bronson, Ernest Borgnine, John Cassavetes, Lee Marvin, Donald Sutherland and Telly Savalas in Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen. He also appeared as himself in 1970 film The Phynx and starred in the title role of Claudio Guzman’s 1973 film, Antonio. Beyond the big screen, he appeared on several TV shows, including Adam-12.
Filmmakers P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes have recently wrapped shooting a documentary about Lopez’s life.