Mexican-American singer and actor Trini Lopez has died at the age of 83 after contracting Covid-19 at a hospital in Rancho Mirage, California.
As well as performing in the 1967 World War II classic The Dirty Dozen as one of the eponymous bands, Lopez scored a transatlantic hit with If I Have a Hammer and designed a pair of guitar models required for Gibson.
Trinidad Lopez III was born in Dallas, Texas, to Mexican parents. His father, Trinidad Lopez II, was also an actor and singer, and the youngest Lopez formed his first band at the age of 15 before transferring between various record contracts for a number of years. He also had a failed audition for Buddy Holly Crickets band after Holly’s death.
But he acquired a nightclub mansion in PJ in Los Angeles, where he was heard by Frank Sinatra, who signed him on his Reprise label. His debut album was recorded live on PJ’s in 1963, featuring a string of songs drawn from American folk, rock’n’roll and traditional Mexican folklore, including the covers of Ray Charles’s What Id Say, Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land and a rogue La Bamba. His version of Peter, Paul and Mary’s If I Have a Hammer surpassed 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 hits in the US with Kansas City and Lemon Tree, while I’m Comin ‘Home Cindy was a small hit in the UK in 1966.
At the height of his popularity he was asked by guitar maker Gibson to design two models, the Trin Lopez Standard and Lopez Deluxe, whose owners include Dave Grohl and Noel Gallagher.
In the mid-1960s he released as many as five albums a year, although they slowed down in the late 1970s. As he continued to perform, he released very little music until 2000, when he began recording again and released six more albums.
He also starred in a self-titled diverse TV show in 1969, which kicked off a wonderful acting career. His most famous role was as Pedro Jimenez in the 1967 film The Dirty Dozen, starring alongside Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and others.
He was unmarried and had no children.