Slack-key Legend Dennis Kamakahi, 1953 - 2014

Posted on April 30, 2014

Dennis Kamakahi, the renowned slack-key guitarist who helped put that distinctive open-tuning Hawaiian style on the map, died from lung cancer April 28. He was 61.

The Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame inductee enjoyed a recording career that spanned five decades and earned him three Grammy awards. Kamakahi got his professional start in 1971 as part of a group specializing in music based on the life of Hawaiian King David Kalakaua. But it was his tenure beginning in 1974 with Eddie Kamae and the Sons of Hawaii that earned Kamakahi a place as one of the 50th state’s most prolific songwriters—penning more than 500 songs during his 20 years with the group. His post-Sons of Hawaii solo career was equally as busy, recording soundtracks to documentaries about Hawaii, and releasing several slack-key albums under his own record label, Dennis Kamakahi Productions, which won a trio of Grammies from 2007 to 2010.

Kamakahi didn’t escape the ear of Hollywood either—his music can be heard on the soundtracks to Lilo & Stitch 2 and The Descendants.

Kamakahi was diagnosed with “stage four” lung cancer in mid March. He is survived by his wife, three children and two grandchildren.

Check out the above video of Kamakahi performing the ballad "Far Away."

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