Mexican-American singer and actor, Trini Lopez passed away at the age of 83, after contracting Covid-19, at a hospital in Rancho Mirage, California.
The news was confirmed by 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 revealed.
Scoring his big break with Frank Sinatra
The singer and actor was born as Trinidad Lopez III in Dallas, Texas, to Mexican immigrant parents on May 15, 1937. His father, Trinidad Lopez II, was also an actor and singer, and the younger Lopez formed his first band aged 15. Before shuttling between various record contracts for a number of years. Lopez scored his big break when he was heard by Frank Sinatra, who signed him to his label, Reprise Records. The Warner Bros imprint would release all of Lopez’s albums in the 1960s.
“Trini Lopez at PJ’s”, “If I Had a Hammer” and more hits
His debut live album, Trini Lopez at PJ’s, in 1963, featured a range of songs that drew from US folk, rock’n’roll and traditional Mexican song craft. Including covers of Ray Charles, What’d I Say, Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land and a raucous La Bamba. His version of Peter, Paul and Mary’s If I Had a Hammer outstripped the success of the original. Reaching No 3 in the US, No 4 in the UK and No 1 in 36 countries. The album sold over 1 Million copies.
Lopez had further US hits with “Kansas City” and “Lemon Tree“, the latter of which became a popular punchline in a Season 2 episode of NBC’s Seinfeld. Other chart-topping songs from Lopez include “I’m Comin’ Home, Cindy,” and “Sally Was a Good Old Girl.”
Designing Gibson Guitars
At the peak of his popularity he was asked by guitar manufacturer, Gibson to design two models. The Trini Lopez Standard and the Lopez Deluxe, owners of which include Dave Grohl and Noel Gallagher.
In the mid-60s he was releasing as many as five albums a year, though that slowed in the late 70s. While he continued performing, he released very little music until 2000, when he began recording again and released a further six albums.
Lopez’s acting career
Alongside his music career, Lopez also pursued acting. Lopez made his acting debut via a cameo in a nightclub scene in 1965’s Marriage on the Rocks, starring Frank Sinatra and Deborah Kerr.
However, his most famous role was as Pedro Jimenez in 1967’s The Dirty Dozen. Starring alongside Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and more in the star-studded 1967 World War II drama directed by Robert Aldrich.
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.
Lopez embraced his Mexican heritage throughout his career, telling in 2017, “I insisted on keeping my name Lopez. I’m proud to be a Lopez. I’m proud to be a Mexicano.” He was unmarried and had no children.
“The world sadly lost yet another legend”
Lopez is the subject of a forthcoming documentary titled My Name Is Lopez. Which includes interviews with the his Dirty Dozen co-stars Brown, Dionne Warwick, Tony Orlando and ZZ Top guitarist, Billy Gibbons. Its producers are P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes. Hughes posted news of Lopez’s death on social media today.
Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters was also among those paying tributes. “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.”