Legendary entertainer Jimmy Borges dies after battle with cancer

Jimmy Borges

Legendary entertainer, jazz singer and actor Jimmy Borges has died.

According to his family, Borges passed away peacefully at his home on Monday, May 30. His family was by his side.

Last year, Borges announced he had terminal liver and lung cancer and decided to forgo further treatment. He would have turned 81 on Wednesday.

“On behalf of Jimmy, his daughter Steffanie Borges-Juergenson, and our entire family, we are so very grateful for the love and support we have received from our friends, our community and from Jimmy’s fans in Hawaii and throughout the world during these final months of his life,” said Vicki Bergeron Borges, his wife of 32 years. “His decision to live his way until the very end was exactly the right thing for Jimmy and both a gift and a lesson for the rest of us.”

According to Mountain Apple Company, which produced his latest, self-titled album, Borges has performed at famed venues, including the Fairmont and Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San San Francisco, the Latin Quarter in New York City, the Schubert in Boston, Harrah’s in Reno and Lake Tahoe, the Dunes in Las Vegas, and the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro. He was the only singer ever allowed complete access to Frank Sinatra’s musical arrangements.

Throughout his storied, decades-long career, Borges had never won a Na Hoku Hanohano Award until Saturday. That night, he was honored with Male Vocalist of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year, Album of the Year, and Favorite Entertainer.

Borges was unable to attend the ceremony himself, so his wife and daughter accepted the awards on his behalf.

Jimmy Borges' daughter Steffanie, pictured left, and wife Vicki accepting one of the Na Hoku Hanohano awards he won Saturday, May 28, 2016, at the Hawaii Convention Center. (Photo courtesy Dillon Ancheta)
Jimmy Borges’ daughter Steffanie, pictured left, and wife Vicki accepting one of the Na Hoku Hanohano awards he won Saturday, May 28, 2016, at the Hawaii Convention Center. (Photo: Dillon Ancheta)

Singer Melveen Leed calls Borges a close friend and mentor.

“What I learned about jazz and how to sing jazz, how to conduct myself, how to lead a band and how to keep an audience going, I learned it all from Jimmy,” said Leed.

“The first time I met him was when I went to San Francisco and I had just bought a full-length mink coat. It was in the middle of July. It was hot and I walked into his nightclub at Miyako (Hotel),” Leed recalled. “He called me up and we sang Bill Bailey and I stuck the microphone in his mouth when he opened his mouth to hit big note. I stuck his microphone in his mouth, it was so funny. We became good friends ever since then. We always laugh about that.”

Leed says she’ll miss Borges’ humor the most. “He can walk into a room and bring happiness and joy to everyone,” she said. “There was not a bad bone in his body, you know. He was always so rascal. We both were like that anyway.”

Local entertainer Kimo Kahoano would always introduce his longtime friend as “Hawaii’s first gentleman of jazz.”

“Jimmy would change the lyrics of a song so that they matched the event, they matched the person,” Kahoano said. “He gave them that extra heart by singing songs that he knew with the lyrics that were just for them.”

“He was like an instrument. He was a great singer, a great communicator. There’s never been anybody quite like Jimmy Borges,” said concert promoter Tom Moffatt. “Jimmy Borges made a lot of people happy. He loved to perform and people love to hear him and see him.”

Jon de Mello, Mountain Apple Company CEO, said in a statement:

There are many moments in my career that are special. Working with Jimmy Borges over the past year and a half has been a highlight. His elegance and pure talent was a joy to witness. He’ll be sorely missed by all who knew him, worked with him, loved him.

The family is planning a small, private Catholic Mass per Borges’ wishes and asks for privacy during this time.

A public tribute is being planned, however those details have yet to be released.

From KHON2's archives
From KHON2’s archives

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