Trini Lopez, "If I Had a Hammer" and "Lemon Tree" Singer, Dies of COVID-19 at 83

Trini Lopez-Getty - H 2020
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He also designed Gibson guitars and appeared in such films as 'Dirty Dozen' and 'Marriage on the Rocks.'

Trini López, the singer and guitarist who in the 1960s had hits with the songs "If I Had a Hammer" and "Lemon Tree" and appeared in the classic war movie The Dirty Dozen, has died. He was 83.

López died Tuesday of complications from COVID-19 in a hospital in Palm Springs, songwriting and business partner Joe Chavira told The Hollywood Reporter.

The good-natured Dallas native and son of Mexican immigrants was signed by Frank Sinatra to his Reprise Records label, and he worked with the Gibson Guitar Corp. to design a pair of signature guitars. He recorded more than 60 albums and was a popular headliner in Las Vegas.

López's version of "If I Had a Hammer," written by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays, reached No. 3 on the Billboard charts in 1965. It had been recorded by The Weavers and in 1962 was a top 10 hit for Peter, Paul and Mary.

His rendition of "Lemon Tree," written by Will Holt, reached No. 20 in 1965, and his other popular tunes included "Kansas City," "Michael," "I'm Comin' Home, Cindy," "Sally Was a Good Old Girl" and a traditional Mexican version of "La Bamba."  

At age 15, López formed his first band out of Wichita Falls, Texas. He and the Big Beats then landed a contract with Columbia Records.

In The Dirty Dozen (1967), directed by Robert Aldrich, López portrayed a convict named Pedro Jimenez in a stellar cast that also included Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, George Kennedy, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas and Donald Sutherland. (His character dies offscreen during a parachute jump.)

López can be seen performing in Marriage on the Rocks (1965) and had cameos in The Poppy Is Also a Flower (1966) and The Phynx (1970). He also appeared on two episodes of NBC's Adam-12 in a dramatic turn.

Work on a documentary about his life titled My Name Is Lopez is in postproduction.

"What a great guy and wonderful friend," singer-actor Pat Boone said in a statement. "We played in celebrity tennis tournaments and laughed and sang. We both knew we were blessed to make a good living doing what we loved — making others happy! I'll miss him — for a little while."