DALLAS — Trinidad ‘Trini’ Lopez III died on Tuesday, August 11 in Palm Springs, Calif. The 83-year-old grew up in the neighborhood of “Little Mexico” now known as Uptown.
“My uncle has always been very healthy,” Lopez's nephew Salvador Martinez said of his uncle’s unexpected death. The 64-year-old said it has been a difficult few days. In July, Lopez had gastrointestinal surgery and was sent home but later tested positive for COVID-19.
“We got to Facetime him a couple of times and they gave him the COVID antibodies on Sunday,” said Martinez. In Lopez's last conversation with his family, he told them goodbye for now. His nephew says it was the most beautiful conversation.
Martinez emphasized that his uncle may have been a celebrity, but he was humble and family-oriented.
Martinez told WFAA that Lopez would always tell his nieces and nephews: "It's nice to be important but it’s important to be nice."
In the last 24 hours, people around the world have expressed their condolences and shared their memories of the Dallas native.
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) president Domingo Garcia said via email:
"Here was a Latino performer ahead of his time who used his talents of voice and guitar to forever emblazon in us the songs, 'If I Had a Hammer' and 'This Land is Your Land' to champion the rights of the oppressed and the downtrodden."
President of The Dallas Mexican American Historical League (DMAHL) David Treviño said Lopez would "always be remembered as one of our favorite sons."
In 2017, DMAHL and the Hispanic Organization for Genealogy and Research (HOGAR) paid tribute to Lopez as part of their “Música” exhibit. The world-renowned entertainer was also inducted into the Texas Musicians Hall of Fame in Irving.
“He had been around the world, but he really appreciated that Dallas recognized him (in 2017)," said Jo Ann Cantu of HOGAR.
Treviño recalled Lopez's reaction to the reception and said the musician expressed his gratitude to DMAHL for the wonderful reception and welcome he received from his hometown. The Dallas native was given a tour of his old Little Mexico barrio.
Friends and fans alike asked for autographs and some of his high school classmates brought their Crozier Tech high school yearbooks for him to sign.
“Trini was not only an international entertainer, singer, and actor, but a person that members of our Dallas Mexican-American community considered our friend,” said Treviño.
At a young age, Lopez learned to play the guitar, which would change his future. At 18, Lopez signed to King Records. According to the 83-year-old’s biography, record producers wanted him to change his last name, but the Dallas native said he would not.
Lopez sang and worked among the greats. He was a headliner for The Beatles. He befriended Buddy Holly and attributed his success to Frank Sinatra - Martinez said his uncle was able to sign an exclusive eight-year contract with Sinatra’s Reprise Records.
His first album became a hit worldwide and the song many mentioned to WFAA, “If I Had a Hammer,” was a No. 1 hit in 30 countries.
“His contributions to our Mexican-American heritage and culture will stand as an example of what can be accomplished with ganas [drive],” said Treviño. “He will always be remembered as our friend, neighbor and part of our community.”