By A.J. Llewellyn
Last year, when the world went mad compiling Bucket Lists (you know, must-do things before we die) it bugged me that what had been at the top of my list the previous year - to see Don Ho, my ultimate, all-time music hero perform live - had to be scratched.
My hero died in 2007 and I still couldn't bring myself to scratch him off the list from the previous year.
I knew it was silly, an impossible dream, but it broke my heart when he died. I just loved that man. It hurt me that I never got to see him perform live. I've met many people over the years who did and the smiles on their faces at the memory told me everything I needed to know.
So I kept him on my list. It's my list after all and nobody needed to know how demented I really am...
This week, my sweetheart sent me an amazing gift, one I will cherish forever. When the big box arrived, I couldn't imagine what he sent me, and was stunned to find an LP I never even knew existed: Don Ho Live at the Polynesian Palace.
I've since discovered it is indeed, a rare LP. Don looks like an angel on the cover and I carefully dusted and cleaned the LP and put it on the turntable.
I quickly called my man. "Where did you find it? How?"
He laughed and told me somebody had given it to him in a collection they no longer wanted, but he knew I was the one person in the world would really appreciate that album.
Recorded live in 1969 at the Palace, where he performed nightly for over a decade, it is raw, pure, beautiful 100% Ho.
There's no filtering of the microphone clunking, chatty background noises, no over-dubs. I listened to the opening Hawaiian chant and stood mesmerized as he asked the children in the audience to come to the stage. He tried to get them to sing along on Pearly Shells, but not only were they off-key, none of them knew the lyrics.
"What's your name, sweetheart?" he asked one little girl.
"And where are you from, Maria?"
"And what does your daddy do?"
"He's in heaven."
There was a hushed silence and Ho said, "He's in a beautiful place, much better than here, Maria. Come and give me a kiss, sweetheart."
Yes, it was awkward and probably today, some sound engineer would have cut it from the lengthy track. But this was Don Ho's gift. He knew his audience and he once described his live show as "like inviting a trainwreck, but we haven't had one yet."
So you see, my Bucket List delivered. I feel I was right there, right by the stage as a little boy called Teddy shrieked his name twice when Mr. Ho didn't hear him the first time.
His wonderful, mad laughter, his constant jokes and lively, lovely music are revelations I will listen to again and again, as if I were there. Live at the Polynesian Palace.