♫ Trini Lopez — A Brief Tribute ♫

I am a bit remiss with this post, but … better late than never.  On Tuesday, singer Trini Lopez died at age 83 of complications from the coronavirus.  Those of you my age (or even older 🦕 ) will likely remember him for his versions of If I Had a Hammer (1963), La Bamba (1963), Guantanamera (1980), and Lemon Tree (1980).  

An interesting bit of trivia:  Lopez formed his first band in Wichita Falls, Texas, at the age of 15. Around 1955/56 Trini Lopez and his band worked at The Vegas Club, a nightclub owned by Jack Ruby, the nightclub owner who assassinated Lee Harvey Oswald.

In late 1962, after Lopez’ contract with King Records expired, he followed up on an offer by producer Snuff Garrett to join the post-Holly Crickets as vocalist. After a few weeks of auditions in Los Angeles, that idea did not go through. He landed a steady engagement at the nightclub PJ’s, where his audience grew quickly. He was heard there by Frank Sinatra, who had started his own label, Reprise Records, and who subsequently signed Lopez.

His debut live album, Trini Lopez at PJ’s, was released in 1963. The album included a version of If I Had a Hammer, which reached number one in 36 countries (#3 in the United States), and was a radio favorite for many years. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

Lopez scored 13 chart singles through 1968, including Lemon Tree.  Beyond his success on record, he became one of the country’s top nightclub performers of that era, regularly headlining in Las Vegas.  In 1969, NBC aired a Trini Lopez variety special featuring surf guitar group The Ventures, and Nancy Ames as guests. The soundtrack, released as The Trini Lopez Show, has him singing his hits with The Ventures as his backing band.  Lopez was still recording and appearing live in the years leading up to his death. He took part in a benefit concert to raise money for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, and appeared as a guest performer in a number of shows held in Maastricht in the Netherlands with the Dutch violinist and composer André Rieu. 

Lopez’ popularity led the Gibson Guitar Corporation to ask him in 1964 to design a guitar for them. He ended up designing two: the Trini Lopez Standard, a rock and roll model based on the Gibson ES-335 semihollow body, and the Lopez Deluxe, a variation of a Gibson jazz guitar designed by Barney Kessel. Both of these guitars were in production from 1964 until 1971, and are now highly sought-after among collectors.

  • In 1993, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to Lopez.
  • He was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 2003.
  • On May 15, 2008, his 71st birthday, Lopez was inducted into the Las Vegas Walk of Stars.

As I mentioned a few nights ago, I am a lover of Latin music and Trini was one of my favourites, and I couldn’t decide which of my favourites to play for you tonight.  So … I decided to give you four to choose from!

R.I.P. Trini Lopez, and thank you for leaving us some beautiful music!

34 thoughts on “♫ Trini Lopez — A Brief Tribute ♫

  1. I read that when Trini was signed to a contract the suits wanted him to change his first name to make him more acceptable to the general public and thus ensure his success and more money for them. He refused.

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    • Thanks John! “Feliz Navidad” is another favourite! In fact, I think I played it either last Christmas season or the one before … I’ll make a note to add it to this year’s holiday lineup!

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    • Did Trini record “Feliz”? I know Jose did. Does anyone know how to say RIP in Spanish?
      You tried, you really did. But the big radio stations thought you weren’t white enough, and the real radio stations didn’t think you ere coloured enough. Half Heaven, Half Heartache–Gene Pitney. I feel for you, half-bro.

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        • Please take this in the most loving way possible, Jill: it is easy for one race to get people from other races confused with each other. And this isn’t even about race, Trini was as white as you, whiter than me. But he had a particular accent, the same one Jose had.
          Unintentional bigotry is everywhere.

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          • Um … I wasn’t making any sort of an ethnic statement, and Trini was of Mexican descent … both of his parents hailed from Mexico! Bigotry??? Sheesh, Jerry … you know me better … my own heritage includes Hispanic, Welsh, German …


            • Because I know you is why I feel I can trust you go back and read what you said. John said Trini did Feliz Navidad, and you ran the song through your head. Yup, the singer had a “Latin” lilt in his voice. Must have been Trini. It was the power of suggestion, mixed with cursory attention to detail. That adds up to “unintentional” racism, or in this case not racism, just bigotry.
              I am not saying this to attack you, or to insult you, Jill. I am asking you to be more aware. You were probably tired, half asleep, bored. Just wanna get ⁷y
              this finished, maybe. I don’t know. But like my rant on Ellen last night, when you are paying the least attention to your vocabulary is when you are most prone to make unintentional statements. You are a white person talking mainly to other white people. Shit happens. I don’t want shit to happen to you, Jill.
              I don’t expect you, or anyone, to be perfect, but if no one calls us on our imperfections, we are not going to learn wepp6 have them. “I” should probably be called out on a lot more things I say, and when I am I will start out on the defensive, it’s the human way ro react. But reacting does not let us learn. We all make mistakes. Can we own up to them? That takes work, patience, and a willingness to be honest with ourselves.
              All that, and more, is why I responded as I did, because I care about you. You are my friend.

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  3. Jill, he was a pleasant singer to listen to. Of course, he was one of “Dirty Dozen” that did not make it the famous movie with Lee Marvin. In “Sleepless in Seattle,” Tom Hanks and the person married to Rita Wilson, had fun crying to the scene when Lopez died in “Dirty Dozen” picking on Wilson’s character who cried to “An Affair to Remember.” Keith

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    • I did not know about his role in the “Dirty Dozen”! If I’ve seen that movie, it was eons ago, so I don’t remember much about it. I think I remember Frank Sinatra in it? Who was married to Rita Wilson … Tom Hanks? Was he in that movie, too?


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  5. Beautiful covers, wonderful voice! Check out the original Cuban version of Guantanamera, I think u’ll appreciate the traditional Latin folk flavor:

    Enjoy a glorious weekend ❤


    • I am often astounded when I do a music post and realize that a song I remember like it was yesterday, was released 50 years ago! How did this ‘getting old’ thing happen??? Glad you liked the selection!

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      • That’s the interesting thing about music, is that songs that come from a different era for us, seem like it was only yesterday. To be honest, today’s music doesn’t do much for me, so I find myself listening to nostalgic radio stations where I can remember nearly every song they play and not only that, find myself humming along. Pity the young of today do not get it. Perhaps in 50 years time, old will be new again.

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