Mexican-American singer Trini Lopez, who had success in 1963 with his version of If I Had A Hammer and played one of The Dirty Dozen, has died aged 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 who paid tribute, saying he left “a great musical legacy”.
He called his own guitar Trini Lopez his “most precious possession” and said it was “the sound of the Foo Fighters since day one”.
Born in Dallas to Mexican parents in 1937, Lopez formed his first group at the age of 15. He is spotted by Holly, who recommends him to his producer Norman Petty.
Moving west, Lopez had a regular gig while playing at PJ nightclub in West Hollywood. There he caught the attention of Sinatra, who signed him to his label and encouraged him to perform.
Her first live album, Trini Lopez at PJ’s, was released in 1963 and featured her version of If I Had A Hammer by Pete Seeger. The song reached third place in the US and fourth in the UK and has sold over a million copies.
In 1966, Lopez was cast in The Dirty Dozen, a movie about rogue soldiers sent on a suicide mission during World War II.
But he clashed with director Robert Aldrich and was kicked out of the film. His character, Pedro Jiminez, dies offscreen after a parachute jump.
Lopez has recorded over 60 albums and was a popular star in Las Vegas. He was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 2003 and was honored on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars in 2008.
Singer Pat Boone remembered Lopez as “a great guy and a wonderful friend”. He wrote on Facebook: “We both knew we were lucky enough to make a good living doing what we loved – making other people happy! ”
Business partner and musician Joe Chavira said he and Lopez had just finished recording a song to raise money for food banks during the Covid-19 pandemic. “And here he dies of something he was trying to fight,” Chavira told The Associated Press.
A documentary about his life, titled My Name is Lopez, is nearing completion.
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