If I Had A Hammer – Trini Lopez

THIS DAY IN MUSIC………………………………………on September 21st of 1963 thirty-three year old Trini Lopez enjoys his biggest hit as “If I Had A Hammer” reaches #3 on the Billboard Pop chart. He would go on to have three more Top 40 hits and co-star in the Oscar winning film The Dirty Dozen in 1967. Pete Seeger and Lee Hays were founding members of People’s Songs, a music publishing company that specialized in tunes that supported various left wing causes – including hammer and sickle Communism. In 1949 at its first board of directors meeting, Seeger and Hayes staved off boredom by passing a sheet of paper back and forth, collaborating on the lyrics that became “If I Had A Hammer.” In 1952, the lyrics were revised a bit by a fellow radical activist, Libby Frank, who insisted on singing “my brothers and my sisters” instead of what Seeger and Hayes had written: “all of my brothers.” Hayes objected (“It doesn’t ripple off the tongue as well. How about ‘all of my siblings?”) but finally agreed. A decade later, the melody itself was rewritten by Peter, Paul & Mary. Most people nowadays sing it as they heard it on PPM’s record, admitted Seeger. This Peter, Paul & Mary version reached #10 in October 1962. A Latin-tinged interpretation, recorded live at PJs nightclub in Hollywood, became an even bigger hit (#3) for Trini Lopez the following September. This song is regarded as a classic protest anthem, but not all protest singers appreciate it. When Michelle Obama requested it during Joan Baez’ performance at a 2010 civil-rights-era music celebration at the White House, Baez refused, as she finds the song quite annoying. “If I had a hammer – I’d hit myself on the head,” she said. In his career Lopez scored 13 chart singles through 1968, including “Lemon Tree” (1965), “I’m Comin’ Home, Cindy” (1966), and “Sally Was a Good Old Girl” (1968). On the adult contemporary chart, he racked up 15 hits, including the top-10 singles “Michael” (1964), “Gonna Get Along Without Ya’ Now” (1967), and “The Bramble Bush” (1967). Beyond his success on record, he became one of the country’s top nightclub performers of that era, regularly headlining in Las Vegas. In the UK Trini’s cover of “If I Had A Hammer” reached #4.