‘Ambassador of aloha’ Danny Kaleikini dies
Tributes poured in from Maui singers, elected officials and others as they remembered the late legendary entertainer and “ambassador of aloha” Danny Kaleikini, who died Friday on Oahu at the age of 85.
Kaleikini, also known as Kaniela, entertained audiences for more than 40 years, three decades of which included a long-standing residency at the
Kahala Hilton, according to his website. He was the opening act for Paul Anka and performed alongside other famous singers like Sammy Davis Jr., Wayne Newton, Dolly Parton, McGuire Sisters and Don Ho.
“I have deep aloha for Uncle Danny Kaleikini,” award-winning Maui singer Amy Hanaiali’i wrote in a Facebook post Friday. “He loved Hawai’i and his culture. Always a big smile and ready to sing. A Legend.”
Hanaiali’i shared a recent conversation with Kaleikini backstage in the dressing room of the Hawai’i Theatre.
“He said baby girl where you touring next?” she recalled. “I said come with me Uncle. He said Uncle tired I no like tour anymore. I said Uncle after all of the thousands of performances you’ve done in your life, rest. He smiled. I will miss you Uncle. Mr. Aloha.”
Born Oct. 10, 1937, Kaleikini was one of eight children raised on Hawaiian homestead land in Papakolea, according to the Consular Corps of Hawaii.
Kaleikini learned to sing and perform at jam sessions after a day of work shining shoes in Chinatown, his website says. He started his career at the Hilton Hawaiian Village and eventually landed a seven-day-a-week show at the Kahala Hilton.
Over his career, he performed in two motion pictures, graced the stage at New York’s Carnegie Hall and collected a slew of honors, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame and the TBS award at Tokyo’s International Song Festival.
In 1988, then-Gov. John Waihee proclaimed Kaleikini Hawaii’s “ambassador of aloha.”
“Uncle Danny Kaleikini will forever be remembered as an ambassador of aloha,” Gov. Josh Green said on his Facebook page Friday evening. “He had a unique way of uniting communities through song. Our state will deeply miss his larger-than-life personality and his magic. Jaime and I are grateful for his love, support and friendship over the years.”
Another elected official, Central Maui Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran, shared memories of watching Kaleikini on TV growing up.
“Sorry to hear about the passing of Danny Kaleikini — growing up on Maui, he was a weekly television fixture growing up for me when he hosted the Danny Kaleikini Theater, introducing a movie each week,” Keith-Agaran posted on Facebook alongside a photo of him and Kaleikini. “He visited my office at the State Capitol on Opening Day in 2015. Condolences to his ‘Ohana and friends.”
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that Kaleikini died in his sleep Friday morning at St. Francis Hospice in Nuuanu and is survived by his wife Jacqueline, daughter Leonn, sister Susan and grandson Nicholas, also a musician who performed alongside his grandfather. Kaleikini was predeceased by his son Danjacques in 1992.