RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — Trini Lopez, a singer and guitarist who gained fame for his versions of “Lemon Tree” and “If I Had a Hammer” in the 1960s and took his talents to Hollywood, died Tuesday. He was 83.
Filmmaker P. David Ebersole, who just finished shooting a documentary on Lopez with Todd Hughes, confirmed that Lopez died from complications of COVID-19 at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, California.
Mentored by Buddy Holly and Frank Sinatra, Lopez became an international star while performing in English and Spanish. Unlike Mexican American singers such as Ritchie Valens, Lopez rejected advice to change his name and openly embraced his Mexican American heritage despite warnings it would hurt his career.
“I insisted on keeping my name Lopez,” he told The Dallas Morning News in 2017. “I’m proud to be a Lopez. I’m proud to be a Mexicano.”
Sinatra signed Lopez to his Reprise Records label after seeing him perform at a West Hollywood nightclub. They became friends and were spotted together regularly in social circles in Las Vegas and Palm Springs, California.
Lopez also appeared in the film classic “The Dirty Dozen” and the comedy “The…