Richard Lopez of Cannibal & the Headhunters was 65

The original Cannibal & the Headhunters had one good year after springing out of Lincoln High School, but boy was it a good year — they opened for the Beatles' U.S. tour in 1965 and for the Rolling Stones, appeared on "American Bandstand" and made the Billboard charts. All because of Land of a Thousand Dances; their cover version played with the lyrics and added the "na na na na" riff, originally because lead singer Frankie "Cannibal" Garcia forgot the words. Wherever Chicanos gather to dance, I bet this classic of the Eastside Sound is still played.

Lopez, called Scar, grew up in the Ramona Gardens housing project and co-founded the band at Lincoln. "We were four Mexican kids from East L.A., coming from the projects," he told the LA Weekly in 2005. "Your dreams can be fulfilled if you work at it." Lopez died of lung cancer July 30 in a convalescent hospital in Garden Grove.


More by Kevin Roderick:
Ralph Lawler of the Clippers and the age of Aquarius
Riding the Expo Line to USC 'just magical'
Last bastion of free parking? Loyola Marymount to charge students
Matt Kemp, Dodgers and Kings start big weekend the right way
LA Times writers revisit their '92 riots observations
Recent Obituaries stories on LA Observed:
Bill Skowron, ex-Dodger and Angel was 81
Lucy Delgado, Mothers of East LA founder was 87
Bob Dylan on the passing of Levon Helm
Jesse Linares, city editor was 49 *
Dick Clark, TV music pioneer was 82 *

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