Trini Lopez Documentary Coming; ‘If I Had a Hammer’ Singer Died in 2020

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Trini Lopez gets his hammer in this 1963 photo

A documentary on the life and music of the late folk-rock pioneer and actor Trini Lopez, titled My Name Is Lopez, is world premiering as the opening night gala at the 2021 American Documentary and Animation Film Festival (AmDocs2021) in Palm Springs, Calif., this Thursday, March 25. Two encore screenings of the film will take place on March 26 and March 27 at the Palm Springs Cultural Center Drive In. The film is also available to view at home any time through the Docs Now+ platform.

Watch the trailer below.

Lopez’s hits included 1963’s #3 “If I Had a Hammer,” as well as “Lemon Tree” and more than a dozen other charting singles; he also placed 14 albums on the Billboard LP chart.

The documentary, produced by the Ebersole Hughes Company (House of Cardin), includes appearances by Jim Brown, Billy Gibbons, Dave Grohl, Tony Orlando, Dionne Warwick and others. Lopez was also interviewed for the film. He died last August from complications of Covid-19, at age 83.

In a 2020 interview with the Palm Springs Life website, filmmaker P. David Ebersole talked about the role in the film of Lopez’s music. “The music is great in the film,” he said. “The clips are phenomenal. We have all this great archival footage of him. Especially back in the 1960s, singing on shows. We’re cutting him in singing on The Dean Martin Show.”

Watch Lopez sing “Bramble Bush” in The Dirty Dozen

Trinidad Lopez III was born in Dallas, Tex., on May 15, 1937, to parents of Mexican descent. In 1958, Lopez recorded his first single for producer Norman Petty (who’d produced Buddy Holly) in New Mexico. Titled “The Right to Rock,” it was released on the small Volk label. Lopez then signed to King Records (home of James Brown). He recorded more than a dozen singles for King, none of which charted; neither did his debut album, Teenage Love Songs, also on King.

Related: Johnny Rivers modeled some of his early hits on Lopez’s style

A move to Los Angeles soon proved fruitful as Lopez was awarded with a recurring gig at the dance nightclub PJ’s. That led to his 1963 signing to Reprise (reportedly by the direct request of label head Frank Sinatra) and the single “If I Had a Hammer.” Written by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays of the Weavers, the song was given a strong backbeat by Lopez—the sounds of the frenzied PJ’s dancers added to its excitement and sent both the single and LP up the charts. “If I Had a Hammer” reportedly went to #1 in some 36 countries.

Watch Lopez sing “La Bamba”

Lopez became a successful Las Vegas entertainer long before other artists made the city a second home, and he branched out into acting, starting in 1965 with an appearance in the film Marriage on the Rocks. His most popular role was in the 1967 film The Dirty Dozen, in which he played the character Pedro Jimenez. The film includes a segment on the movie.

A release date for theaters/on-demand for My Name Is Lopez has not yet been announced.

Watch the trailer

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