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Knight-Ridder Tribune

Trini López Stays True To His Hispanic Roots

By Selwyn Crawford

March 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002
Knight-Ridder Tribune. All Rights Reserved.

DALLAS -- Latin pop singer Trini López says the best piece of wisdom he can offer young people is: Always obey your parents.

It's a good thing for López, then, that for once in his life, he failed to follow his own advice. Had he done so, he might be down at the neighborhood garage, swinging the proverbial hammer he sang about in his blockbuster hit, "If I Had a Hammer."

"My mother did not want me to go into show business," López says. "She said she wanted me to get married, go to work at a filling station and throw away" the guitar.

"But I knew what I wanted to do, so I listened to my father," says López, 64, who lives in Palm Springs, Calif.

At least he obeyed one of his parents. After a career spanning four decades, López has recorded 50 albums, 14 of which reached the charts, according to the industry magazine, Billboard.

One of those albums -- "Trini López at PJ's" -- sold more than 500,000 copies in 1965. But it didn't stop there. A Frank Sinatra protege, López's resume also includes roles in more than half a dozen movies. Not bad for a guy who grew up "dirt poor" in Dallas near the area now occupied by American Airlines Center.

Trinidad López III, named for his father and grandfather, vows never to forget his roots or his inauspicious start in the world of music.

"My father asked me when I was 9 or 10, 'Son, what are you going to do with your life?' " López says. "At the time, I didn't know. So he told me to be home every night when he came home, but I didn't listen. The third time he came home and I wasn't there, he pulled off his belt and he spanked me real good. My feelings were hurt more than anything."

But apparently, so were those of the elder López. To make up for the spanking, Trini says his father bought him a used guitar. The instrument cost $12, which López says his dad really couldn't afford.

"He said he was going to teach me the songs he sang in Mexico, and he did," López says. Many of López's friends say his influence can't be measured by record charts alone.

"His life has been a good example that there are no limits to your dreams," says Dallas restaurateur and friend Mariano Martínez. "He taught me by example. I learned from him that we're free to define our own place in the world."

Martínez says another thing he has long admired about his friend is the singer's immense pride in being Hispanic, though "never playing the race card."

"At one time, his record company wanted him to change his name," Martínez says. "They told him no one was going to buy a record with a Hispanic surname.

"He just said no, thank you," Martínez said. "And he kept putting out records under his own name. I learned something from that. I learned to be proud of my own heritage."

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