Legendary slack key guitarist Dennis Kamakahi dies

Hawaii lost a great musician Monday when legendary slack key guitarist Dennis Kamakahi lost his battle with lung cancer. He was 61 years old.

Kamakahi’s son, David, said his father passed away at Queen’s Medical Center at 4:30 p.m. peacefully and with family by his side. He had been diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.

Last month, many of his fellow musicians got together and played at a fundraiser for him at Willows Restaurant. Now, the Hawaiian music community and his fans are mourning his loss.

“We’re in Waikiki performing tonight and we get a text that Uncle Dennis Kamakahi has passed on and man, I’m up on stage and I’m dedicating him songs,” said Kelly Boy De Lima of Kapena. “His legacy lives in all of us musicians from the islands. We’ve played his songs. We’ve recorded his songs, so yeah, it burns really deep, and the music community has lost a true son of Hawaii, definitely.”

“I think everyone looks up to Dennis Kamakahi in some way, whether it’s trying to create that same kauna that he had or just his lyrics and melody he strung together was so beautiful, and he really is a legend,” said Hawaiian entertainer Skyler Kamaka.

Kamakahi was part of the Hawaiian music scene for decades. He joined Eddie Kamae and The Sons of Hawaii back in the 1970s, and also went on to compose music, penning more than 500 songs. His music was featured in numerous films, including “The Descendants” and “Lilo & Stitch 2.”

He won a number of awards, including three Grammys, multiple Na Hoku Hanohano awards, and was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

In 2013, he was the first modern Hawaiian music composer to have his six-string slack key guitar accepted into the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s permanent collection.

In addition to being a musician, he was also a Reverend.

His son says the family has yet to make funeral arrangements.

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