5 inducted into Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame

Late composer of 'Sweet Leilani' honored; Leilani herself was there

Published  9:29 PM HST May 01, 2013
Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame Inductee
HONOLULU -

Bing Crosby sang it in the 1937 film "Waikiki Wedding" and it won an Oscar for best original song.

The late composer of "Sweet Leilani" was honored in Waikiki Wednesday and Leilani herself was there.

The song is a Hawaiian music staple and sung by so many.

Harry Owens wrote the song for his daughter Leilani in 1934.

"He was such an awesome father," said Leilani Hartman. "I loved him so much. He was both parents to me after my mother died at age 10 and I adored him."

Hartman said he wrote about four of his children, "But I never felt any more special than any of them, but it's the one that hit because of Bing Crosby."

Her father was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame Wednesday at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel Monarch Room, where he was bandmaster for years.

"Tears, very touched, very moved and very grateful," Hartman said.

According to Hartman, Crosby and his wife were dancing at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and kept asking Owens to play "Sweet Leilani."

"And the next morning Crosby called my father at home and dad was sleeping and my mother answered and Crosby said, 'This is Bing Crosby,' and she said, 'Well, this is Joan Crawford,' and hung up on him," Hartman said.

Still, Crosby wanted the song in his movie.

And Owens wanted the song to live on, insisting his daughter to name her daughter Leilani.

"It adds to all that gratification of how amazing my grandfather really was and still is to this whole state," said Leilani Dobric.

Owens also ran Hawaii Calls, a radio program heard almost worldwide.

"He was one of the envoys of our Hawaii, Pacifica and our Hawaiian music," said Aaron Mahi of the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame.

Falsetto singer George Kainapau, kumu hula George Naope, radio programs and recording artists Ka Leo Hawaii and the Makaha Sons of Niihau were also inducted into the hall of fame.

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