Listen to our “Essential Gabby” playlist.
Gabby Pahinui played a defining role in popularizing Hawaiian-style slack-key guitar and steel guitar music during the Hawaiian cultural renaissance of the 1970s.
Gabby Pahinui played a defining role in popularizing Hawaiian-style kihoalu (slack-key guitar) and steel guitar music during the Hawaiian cultural renaissance of the 1970s. Largely self-taught, he grew to become one of Hawaii’s most influential musicians prior to his death at the age of 59 in 1980. It’s said Pahinui could pick up and master any stringed instrument and he matched that skill with memorable roughhewn falsetto vocals. He was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame in 2002 and some of his work was archived in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2012.
Pahinui released many influential songs and albums. His 1946 song “Hiilawe” was perhaps the first recording to merge slack-key guitar with Hawaiian vocals. He recorded two albums as a member of the Sons of Hawaii with ukulele master Eddie Kamae in the 1960s. Later, he recorded four albums—“Gabby” (aka The Brown Album, 1972), “Rabbit Island Music Festival” (1973) and Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band Vols. 1 & 2 (1975, 1976)—with the Gabby Band, a group comprised of various friends including Leland “Atta” Isaacs, Manuel “Joe Gang” Kupahu, Sonny Chillingworth, Peter Moon, Randy Lorenzo and Ry Cooder.
His children continue his musical legacy with successful music careers of their own.
Listen to HAWAII Magazine’s playlist of our favorite Gabby tunes on Spotify: