Knife Dancing: Good Prerequisite For Songwriting?
:: I'll Remember You ::
:: Ain't No Big Thing ::
:: Na Ali'I ::
:: Get On Home ::
:: No Other Song ::
Well, how do ya like that? I guess we do have a bit of a Hawaiian theme going here. Must have something to do with the tiki lamps I just installed in my back yard and the huge pig roasting pit (imu) I dug there last weekend. Anyway, here goes:
I bought this record on a lark, never having heard of the artist, I figured it was more than likely a failed commercial attempt by some obscure artist from the mid-60s. I was right about the mid-60s part, but it turns out the only thing Kui Lee failed at was staying alive long enough to enjoy his success.
Born in China in 1932 to Hawaiian parents, his family moved back to Hawaii after his Mother's death when Kui was 5. After graduating high school, he moved to New York to pursue a life in entertainment, specifically choreography and knife dancing. There, he met a hula dancer named Nani Meadows, whom he married and proceeded to have 4 children with. Moving back to Hawaii in 1961, he found work in nightclubs, eventually ending up at Honey's, where Don Ho was rapidly ascending to Hawaiian style stardom.
About this time Kui learned to play guitar and sing, and began composing songs. He played "I'll Remember You" for Don Ho, and Ho flipped. Many credit Lee with Don Ho's success, including Ho himself, but there's more to it than that. During his short career, Kui Lee is said to have written 80 songs, many of which were recorded by the likes of Andy Williams, Tony Bennett and Herb Alpert. His songs helped to popularize Hawaiian music, and Hawaii in general.
Where Don Ho and his crack band, the Aliis were consummate performers, Kui Lee was a composer first. Although not a bad singer, his voice often sounded strained to these ears. Of course it might have had something to do with the fact that at the time of these recordings, he was suffering from an as yet undiagnosed case of lymph gland cancer, which would claim his life at age 34 in December of 1966.
Don Ho still professes to miss his soul mate and composer of so many of his hit songs. The selections presented here, from his 1965 Columbia debut, show the variety of styles Kui was able to conjure up. From the most tender ballads to Hawaiian Punch rock, he could do it all and stir up a healthy appetite for Kalua Pork and Mai Tais and hot, dark skinned women in grass skirts and... oops, sorry!
Of the two rockers included here, one thing that strikes me is how much they sound like early Neil Diamond rockers like "Cherry Cherry" and "Thank The Lord for the Night Time", only they pre-date Neil's songs by a couple of years. Hmmm... that's funny. You don't suppose Neil Diamond ripped off Kui Lee, do you?
Me Ke Aloha,