Best remembered for his signature hit "Beautiful Kauai," singer Kawai Cockett carried the torch for traditional Hawaiian music into the 21st century. Born September 24, 1938, at Pukoo, Molakai, Cockett was raised by his father's cousin. Unlike most Hawaiian children of his generation, he was raised speaking the island's native tongue and did not learn English until he entered primary school, around which time he also began playing the ukelele. After high school Cockett attended Kapiolani Technical College before relocating to Oahu in 1957 to pursue a career as a performer. A protégé of famed composer John Kameaaloha Almeida, the so-called "Dean of Hawaiian Music," he began his recording career in 1969 with the album Beautiful Kauai, scoring his first and most enduring hit with his definitive rendition of the title cut. Although Cockett recorded a number of LPs throughout his career, winning a Na Hoku Hanohano Award as Male Vocalist of the Year for 1993's O Ka 'Ohao Ku'u 'Aina Nani, he enjoyed his greatest success as a live performer, headlining in Waikiki for more than a decade and touring extensively as a representative of the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. Cockett officially retired in 1998, but in the years to follow he regularly played concerts for children, and in 1999 even resurfaced with a new LP, Na Mele Maoli. He died of complications from diabetes on September 20, 2006, less than a week shy of his 68th birthday.
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