Hoku winner was immersed in Hawaiian culture
Kawai Cockett / 1938-2006
Kawai Cockett -- the singer, musician and Hoku Award-winning recording artist -- died Wednesday of complications from diabetes.
He would have celebrated his 68th birthday on Sunday.
Born at Pukoo, Molokai, Cockett was hanai (adopted) by his father's cousin John Kawai Cockett and grew up immersed in the traditional culture of rural Hawaii.
Unlike most Hawaiians of his generation, Cockett was a native speaker who did not learn English until he started school. Cockett spoke fluent English for most of his life but said that he found it easier to express his feelings in Hawaiian.
Cockett left Molokai to attend Kapiolani Technical College after graduating from Molokai High School. His career as a professional entertainer began with the encouragement of John Kameaaloha Almeida, who, along with Alice Namakelua and Henry Pa, became his teacher and mentor.
Cockett's 1969 debut album, "Beautiful Kauai," was a hit, and his recording of the title song remains one of the most popular versions. He was a two-time Na Hoku Hanohano award winner in the Male Vocalist of the Year category with his staunchly traditionalist albums "'O Ka 'Ohao Ku'u 'Aina Nani" (1993) and "A Traditional Hawaiian -- Na Mele Maoli" (1998).
Cockett had a long career performing in Waikiki. He also toured extensively promoting Hawaii as a representative of the Hawaii Visitors Bureau or in shows sponsored by one of the airlines.
In later years he shared his knowledge with children as a cultural resource in local schools.
Cockett is survived by wife Kamala Lovene 'Aina Cockett and son Ha'aheo 'Aina-Cockett. Funeral arrangements are pending.