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Trini Lopez

Idioma disponible: inglés
One of the most popular performers of the 1960s, Trini Lopez won a large international following for his upbeat, likable blend of folk and rock & roll. His repertoire was steeped in folk standards and popular tunes of the day, which he favored with his instrumental style, a light yet insistent variation on early rock and rockabilly that was perfect for dancing, singalongs, and clapping, all of which Lopez cheerfully encouraged. At a time when there were few Latin performers in rock, he was outspokenly proud of his Mexican-American heritage, and often sang in Spanish, which helped boost his appeal outside the United States. Lopez was a showman who made audiences feel comfortable and didn't play the role of the rock & roll rebel, making him accessible to youngsters and their parents alike. (Significantly, he was discovered and mentored by Frank Sinatra, not known for his enthusiasm for rock & roll.) Lopez broke through in 1963 with the album Trini Lopez at PJ's, a live recording of his nightclub act, which was followed a few months later by More Trini Lopez at PJ's; in many respects, these two albums set the template he would follow for the rest of his career, though 1964's The Latin Album demonstrated he knew how to work in the recording studio, and 1968's Welcome to Trini Country found him taking on C&W hits. 2007's The Very Best of Trini Lopez is a collection that lives up to its name. Trinidad López III was born in Dallas, Texas, on May 15, 1937, one of six children. His father was a laborer but also had a side career as a performer in the Mexican ranchera style, and when Trini was 11 years old, his dad gave him his first guitar. He soon became proficient on the instrument, and developed a repertoire that combined Mexican folk tunes, rhythm and favorites from the likes of Jimmy Reed and T-Bone Walker, and rock & roll hits by Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. Lopez began playing on street corners to make extra money, and by the time he was a senior in high school, he had a band called the Big Beats, quitting school so he could work with the group full-time. The Big Beats regularly played nightspots in Texas, and after meeting fellow Texan Buddy Holly, the star put him in touch with his record producer, Norman Petty. While Petty helped the Big Beats land a recording deal with Columbia Records, he preferred to de-emphasize Lopez's presence in the group, and the material they cut was entirely instrumental. Understandably unhappy, he left the band, and cut a rockabilly-influenced single in 1958 for a small Texas label, Volk Records, "The Right to Rock" b/w "Just Once More." The 45 attracted little notice; the following year, he signed with King Records, and recorded a handful of rock & roll sides for them over the space of three years, none of which hit the charts. Producer Snuff Garrett approached Lopez about singing with the Crickets after Buddy Holly's death, but a series of auditions led nowhere. While Lopez's recording career was not going very far, he was developing a reputation as an engaging live performer, and he was booked to play a residency at a nightclub in West Hollywood called PJ's. The club often attracted a celebrity clientele, and one night Frank Sinatra stopped by and caught his show. Sinatra thought Lopez had star quality, and signed him to his record company, Reprise Records. Don Costa, a producer for Reprise, felt the best way to capture the excitement of his performances was to record him live in front of an audience, and a mobile recording unit was moved into PJ's to put his show on tape. Released in April 1963, Trini Lopez at PJ's was a smash hit, rising to number two on the Top 200 Albums charts and earning a Gold Record, while the single "If I Had a Hammer" was a number three single in the United States while reaching the top of the charts in 36 other countries. Just four months later, Reprise brought out More Trini Lopez at PJ's, another batch of live recordings from his Hollywood club dates, which produced another hit single, "Kansas City." "Lemon Tree" rose to Number 20 in 1965, and 1966's "I'm Comin' Home, Cindy" would be his last visit to the Pop Top 40 in the United States, though he would regularly appear on the Adult Contemporary charts through 1968. Lopez would also become a frequent visitor to the album charts, especially with themed releases such as 1964's The Latin Album, 1965's The Folk Album, The Love Album, and The Rhythm & Blues Album, and 1966's The Second Latin Album. After the success of Trini Lopez at PJ's, his King Records material was reissued on an album called Teenage Love Songs, and the King recordings would be repackaged frequently over the years. As Lopez's fame rose, he became a top draw at venues around the world and performed regularly in Las Vegas; he also became a regular guest on television shows, ranging from The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson to Celebrity Bowling and Sha Na Na. He made his big-screen debut in the movie Marriage on the Rocks (1965), starring his mentor Frank Sinatra, and he had a major role in 1967's The Dirty Dozen, though his part in the latter was cut short as he left the project before filming was completed in order to get back on the road. He starred in his own TV special in 1968, The Trini Lopez Show, and Reprise issued a soundtrack album. 1969's The Whole Enchilada was produced by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, best known for their success writing and producing for the Monkees. It was an attempt to update Trini's sound as rock and pop took the place of his more subdued style on the charts. The album didn't make the charts, and it was his last album for Reprise. In 1971, Lopez recorded a Spanish-language LP for Capitol Records, Viva, but sales were scarce, and for the rest of his career, he would work with a variety of small labels, occasionally re-recording his old hits, though he continued to tour regularly and recorded several independent albums in his later years, including 2016's Here I Am and My Christmas Gift to You, and a 2017 spiritual release, Heaven. One of Lopez's final projects was recording a song called "If by Now," written to raise money for food banks who had been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. In a sad coincidence, Lopez himself contracted COVID-19, and the virus claimed his life on August 11, 2020; he was 83 years old.
© Mark Deming /TiVo
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