From Kirkus Discoveries
Loa maika'i eluhelu e pili ana no Don Ho. (Possible grammar issues notwithstanding, that s Hawaiian for "A very good book about Don Ho.")
Hawaiian vocalist/songwriter Ho released his first album in 1965, and from then until his death in 2007, it could be argued that he was the island version of Sammy Davis Jr. — a versatile entertainer as well as a compelling singer. He cut the lilting ballad "Tiny Bubbles," his first big hit and his signature song until the end of his life, in 1966, and soon afterwards took the mainland by tropical storm. From Las Vegas to New York, the affable Ho performed anywhere and everywhere. He hit his peak of popularity in the late-'60s and early '70s, thanks in part to appearances on such TV shows as The Brady Bunch, Batman and I Dream of Jeannie. Ho led a relatively drama-free life — no documented heroin binges, polygamy or the like — which one would think might make for a less-than-scintillating autobiography. But the performer was so beloved that the reader can t help but be charmed by this generous outing. It's formatted as an oral history rather than a straight narrative, which gives the book a conversational, relaxed and intimate vibe — the kind of vibe that Ho himself likely exuded. Filled with dozens of photos and heartfelt reminiscences from family, friends and showbiz industry cohorts, My Music, My Life isn't an autobiography as much as a celebration. Ho summed it up best when he said, "People used me as a good excuse for a party a thousand times." And that s exactly what My Music, My Life is — a party honoring an island icon.
Don Ho lovers rejoice; this colorful coffee table book is everything readers could possibly want from an autobiography of this Hawaiian treasure. --Kirkus Discoveries (April 2008)
Ho biography noteworthy because it's his telling
Books about Don Ho have been attempted before, but each fizzled largely because Ho, despite his public persona, zealously guarded his private life.
So, the arrival of "Don Ho: My Music, My Life," is a noteworthy development. Ho actively participated in and approved its development, and it arrives just eight months after the entertainer's death. And while Ho may not have seen actual galleys of the manuscript, the book flows like the entertainer is at the helm.
It is presented as an oral history, with voices provided by speakers whose names appear in boldface before each excerpt, and unfolds chronologically tracing Ho's childhood, school era, military service, early years discovering himself at Honey's, his mom's Kane‘ohe rendezvous, and show biz career.
The book glamorizes Ho's rise from local dude to international star, and includes photos from Ho's personal collection, as well as familiar imagery. The chapters tell the tale: "The Pilot," "Honey's Boy," "Tiny Bubbles," "Kissing Grandmas," "Stem Cell Poster Boy."
Even those who've followed Ho's career are likely to find something new here. There's also plenty that's familiar, funny and sad. You'll recognize the "Suck 'em Up" mai-tai glass that was the rage of his tenure at Duke Kahanamoku's. You'll chuckle over the Don Ho bubble machine and that bottle of bubbly that paid homage to his hit song. You'll recognize his failing health. And you'll relive the watery farewell, when hundreds bid him adieu.
You'll remember Ho in a way that he probably would approve. --Wayne Harada, "The Honolulu Advertiser" (copyright 2007)
Ho s life and times make his book soar
Timing is everything. This look at the life and times of the late Don Ho proves the point. Ho began recording his memoirs in 2006, then talked at length with author Jerry Hopkins in the spring of 2007. Their final conversation was on Thursday, April 12, less than two days before he died. If Ho had waited any longer to start on his autobiography, or if Hopkins had come into the picture any later, this colorful book would not exist.
"Don Ho" is an "oral history" project that consists almost entirely of transcripts of interviews with Ho and people who knew him. The latter include the Ho family, four of the five original members of the Aliis, and longtime friends such as Larry Mehau, Eddie Sherman and Cha Thompson. The inclusion of people who refused to participate in efforts by other authors makes this book a milestone, and a must-buy for anyone interested in Ho or his impact on modern Hawaiian entertainment. It is also lavishly illustrated with photographs and other memorabilia from Ho's archives.
The most interesting sections cover the early years—growing up poor in Kakaako, moving from place to place, settling in Kaneohe, then boarding at Kamehameha School. The stories are fascinating and show how and why Ho became the leader and world-class entertainer he was.
Most of the history from 1964 on has been covered many times over the years, but the first-hand descriptions of Ho's decades as a Hawaiian superstar are entertaining as well. At times, however, the straight-from-the-tape-recorder concept falls short.
For instance, Ed Brown, Ho's business partner of 26 years, is quoted as saying that the subject of Ho's break-up with the original Aliis in 1969 "continues to give me angst, as I know they believe it was my idea, and it wasn't." But Brown goes on to say that if Don had stayed with the Aliis he would have been at best "a great lounge act"—suggesting that it was in Ho's best interest to go solo. Hopkins apparently didn't follow up with Brown or Ho on the break-up, nor did he ask any of the Aliis for their perspective.
The circumstances of Ho "inheriting" Jim Nabors' dancers and orchestra at the end of 1981—a move that left the Aliis and the other members of Ho's Market Place show to fend for themselves—also rated a comment or two from someone.
The only person who says anything critical of Don Ho in this book is Ho himself. He speaks several times of his regret at not having spent more time with his parents, his first wife and his children while he was "exploding in the business," and also for not being present when his daughter, Hoku, was born in 1982.
As always, Ho's frankness and honesty touches the heart. A definitive, thoroughly researched, third-person biography of Don Ho will eventually be written, but even when it is, this "oral history" will still be a fascinating memento of a life well spent. --John Berger, "Honolulu Star-Bulletin" (copyright 2007)
About the Author
Born in a hardscrabble Honolulu neighborhood in 1930, Donald Tai Loy Ho combined his musical gift, beachboy demeanor and love of the Islands to become Hawai‘i's most beloved entertainer and one of the biggest draws in show business. For nearly half a century, Don Ho was synonymous with the Hawaiian Islands from his wild, unpredictable early shows at Duke Kahanamoku's to a tour and television career that carried the spirit of aloha to audiences around the world. His laid-back, hang-loose Island charm endeared him to millions. As television and radio personality Jim Lange observed, "A Don Ho fan is his friend. That's the way Don works." Sympathy wishes collected online overwhelmingly shared the same characteristic: his fans felt they had a personal relationship with Don, their own stories to tell about the legendary icon.
Co-writer Jerry Hopkins has written more than 30 books and 1,000 music articles. He was a correspondent and editor at Rolling Stone for 20 years and has written best-selling biographies of Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix. This is his second collaboration work for Watermark Publishing; "Showman of the Pacific: 50 Years of Radio & Rock Stars," a memoir written with the legendary Hawai‘i concert promoter Tom Moffatt, was released in 2005. A former long-time Hawai‘i resident, Hopkins now resides in Thailand.