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A Star whose light shines on barrio boys everywhere
By Judi McLeod
Somewhere between my callow youth and now, I lost track of awesome Latino legend Trini Lopez.
So you can imagine my delight when I came across Trini on YouTube, singing the songs that made people everywhere fall in love with him. Hearing Trini sing, If I Had A Hammer, makes it seem like the years never passed.
Some people who never seem to age have the ability of making us all feel younger.
Trini Lopez will be honoured with his own star on the Las Vegas Walk of Starts on his May 15 birthday this year.
Nobody could keep still in their seats when they went to see this human songbird at the beginning of his career, and it’s the same today.
The boyish good looks that would go on and seem to defy time, took him to the silver screen in movies like The Dirty Dozen and television appearances too numerous to include in this article.
Even to the day when the name of another Lopez is up in lights, comes the movie El Cantante, produced by and starring Jennifer Lopez. Marc Anthony, Ms. Lopez’s husband has the role of El Cantante (the singer). Jennifer mentions Trini in the movie.
In opening chapters of Trini Lopez on stage, he was a sort of younger Perry Como, a crooner with a voice smooth as coffee liquor and a smile to light the darkest room.
Coming from the heart of the traditional boy-makes-good story, Trini had a way of making his audience feel that they were an integral part of it.
This is an entertainer who always gave back. His charitable works are both legendary and lasting, and Trini shows up everywhere where good works are in the making.
On Tuesday, March 18, Trini was the headliner at a benefit for the Unites States Marines in Cathedral City, California. “For some unknown reason, when these military troops return to the Palm Springs airport, they must provide their own transportation to the 29 Palms Marine base in 29 Palms, Ca.” (www.trinilopez.com). “The drive takes about one and a half hours. After these men have put their lives o n the line for us, it is a shame they must pay to get back to their base when they return. In order to help with this expense, a benefit was held with many other local celebrities performing. There was standing room only and people were turned away at the door because there was no room for anyone else to enter the building. Trini performed several songs and had the people dancing, clapping and singing along with him. It was a wonderful event with nine of the Marines in attendance. Several thousand dollars were raised for these wonderful men and women.”
And that’s just one recent account of the irrestible drawing card nicknamed “the Latino Legend” generations after he got his start!
Trini’s talent comes naturally. His father, Trinidad Lopez II, was a singer, dancer, actor and musician in Mexico. When he was 18, he married Petra Gonzalez and moved to Dallas, Texas, from Mexico to make a better life for themselves.
Trini’s parents are now both deceased. Among his siblings he has four sisters, one deceased. The other three are homemakers. One brother, Jesse, is also an entertainer.
Perhaps Tini’s lifelong empathy for the little guy comes from his own struggles of the past. A poor boy from the barrio of Dallas, Texas, he remembers barely enough food for the family, the amount always determined by his hardworking parents’ ability to get whatever work they could. “They worked and struggled together just to survive,” he recalls. “They plowed fields together. My mother washed clothes in the neighborhood for extra income. You cannot imagine how hard it was.”
Trini learned to play the guitar from his musically talented father; in fact it was his father’s guilt over a rare spanking that brought Trini his first guitar.
Trini started off in life trying to help the family by playing for money on street corners, eventually going on to form his own group. From the street corners all the way to the El Cipango Club in Dallas, and other big clubs throughout the Southwest, was part of his rags to riches true-life story.
His first big break came when Frank Sinatra, who recognized his talent, signed him to an 8-year contract with his label, Reprise Records.
That he was able to make music that got himself and his family out of the barrio is an inspiration to people everywhere who believe that dreams coming true are possible if you just believe.
Being up there with the stars like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin has never turned Trini’s head.
With his winning ways, Trini Lopez is as loved in the barrios as he is in the hallowed halls of the more politically powerful. Congressman Thomas Rees of California honored him on the floor of Congress in Washington, D, C. in recognition of his work on behalf of international relations, and Trini has the honor of sharing prestigious company with Louis Armstong and Frank Sinatra in being named Goodwill Ambassador for the United States.
Trini is the `Star of the Little Guy’; the hope of barrio boys everywhere.
No matter how heady the heights, he never forgot his humble beginning.
As his parents taught him, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”
Is it any wonder that Trini has enjoyed resurgence in popularity ever since the release of the blockbuster motion picture La Bamba? That’s a song has been in Trini’s heart ever since his beloved father taught it to him at age 11.
There was a wellspring of music in this dark-eyed Latino boy with the wistful grin that even the hardest of times couldn’t make go away.
This is why the dark-eyed man under the black sombrero brings warm smiles to members of his audience, the moment he walks out onto the stage.
Happy Birthday, “Mr. La Bamba”.
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