PALM SPRINGS, CA (CelebrityAccess) — Trini Lopez, a singer and musician who scored a series of folk hits in the 1960s including renditons of “If I Had a Hammer” and “This Land Is Your Land,” died on Tuesday from complications related to COVID-19. He was 83.
Lopez’s songwriting partner Joe Chavira said Lopez had been in and out of a hospital setting for about six weeks before dying on Tuesday morning in Palm Springs, the Associated Press reported.
Born in Texas in 1937 to Mexican immigrants, Lopez formed his first band by the age of 15 while working in Wichita Falls at the Vegas Club, a nightclub owned Jack Ruby, who later assassinated Lee Harvey Oswald.
Lopez and his group The Big Beats, signed with Columbia Records and released one single before Lopez exited the group to puruse a career as a solo artist.
Signed with King Records, Lopez released a series of singles, none of which gained traction and was eventually dropped by the label.
After relocating to Los Angeles, he secured a steady engagement at the nightclub PJ and began developing a local audience. While performing at the club, he was heard by Frank Sinatra, who signed him to his own label Reprise Records.
Lopez debut on Reprise, “Trini Lopez at PJ’s” included a version of the Pete Seeger and Lee Hays classic “If I had a hammer” which was a smash hit for Lopez, reaching #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 in 36 countries around the world.
During his years on Reprise, Lopez released 13 charting singles, included “Lemon Tree,” “Kansas City,” “Are you sincere,” and “Michael.”
During the 1960s and 1970s, Lopez attempted to transition into acting but did not find the same measure of success has he had as a musician.
However, he continued to tour successfully in the U.S. and Europe as a musician but his attempts to reinvent himself musically to stay relevant with new sounds failed after a disco album he released in 1978 landed with a thud.
In 2003, he was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Las Vegas Walk of Stars in 2008.