Sunday, June 13, 2010


MARTIN DENNY... An exotica icon

In 1994, my dad was a patient at St. Francis Hospice in Nuuanu. He was in a terminal condition and we were lucky and grateful that St. Francis was able to accommodate us. One morning, I heard someone playing on the baby grand piano in the lobby and went out to check to see who it was.

There was an older gent, with white hair and an equally white mustache playing some easy listening music. He introduced himself as Martin Denny. I was thrilled. A big star and he quietly played there every Thursday mornings to, as he puts it, feed the souls of friends, families and patients to ease the passing of a human being. I have since found that many big name stars do this as part of their way of giving back to the community.

I knew of him because I was a big fan of his when he played at the Shell Bar at the Hawaiian Village. Sounds of "Taste of Honey", "Ebb Tide" and of course, "Quiet Village" come to mind.

Originally from New York, where he was a child prodigy, he found himself in Hawaii in 1954 at the age of 43  after serving in WW II. His group accidentally stumbled upon the sounds of frogs, birds, whistles and jungle calls and instituted them in his music. He looked at his music as "window dressing" background to set the mood for visitors to enjoy Hawaii's lush tropical settings.

I learned to hack away at the piano in 2001 and somehow, was drawn to Denny's songs, like "Quiet Village", "Taste of Honey", "Enchanted Sea" and "Ebb Tide" and I still play those songs from time to time. While Denny was a headliner, my music is mostly background "dressing" to set the mood for functions during dinner and cocktail hour. He has had a profound influence on me in my volunteer work as well as the type of music I play.

Martin Denny played his last concert on February 13, 2005 at a benefit to aid tsunami victims and passed away three weeks later on March 3, 2005 at age 93.

Just wanted to feature him because many people volunteer as Martin Denny did, quietly, without a spotlight or demanding credit for it. That's what great people do.

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