Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Trini Lopez, 'If I Had A Hammer' Singer, Dies Of COVID-19 Complications At 83

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We're sorry to tell you that Trini Lopez has died. The singer and guitarist was 83, suffered complications from COVID-19.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LEMON TREE")

TRINI LOPEZ: (Singing) Lemon tree, very pretty. And the lemon flower is sweet.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Lopez was born in Dallas in a neighborhood called Little Mexico. He started his first band when he was 15. And then in the early 1960s, he moved to Los Angeles. Frank Sinatra saw him perform and signed Lopez to his label. That led to a major hit, "If I Had A Hammer."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF I HAD A HAMMER")

LOPEZ: (Singing) If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning. I'd hammer in the evening all over this land.

KING: People had played that song before, but it took on new meaning when it was sung by the son of Mexican immigrants at the height of the civil rights movement.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF I HAD A HAMMER")

LOPEZ: (Singing) I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters, oh, oh, all over this land.

INSKEEP: The song hit No. 1 in 36 countries. Like Sinatra, Lopez went from music to acting. He played a role in the 1967 World War II film "The Dirty Dozen."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE DIRTY DOZEN")

UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR: (As narrator) Trini Lopez as Jiminez. He is crawling with hate.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNFIRE)

INSKEEP: Lopez also launched his own line of Gibson signature guitars.

KING: Not long before he got sick, he'd just finished a documentary about his remarkable life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA BAMBA")

LOPEZ: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.