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Bill Alii'loa Lincoln

William Lionel Kalanialiiloa Lincoln was born in 1911 on the Big Island in the vicinity of Kohala. With his affinity for the musical heritage of his land, he soon came to Oahu and came under the influence (as did so many of the pionering modern Hawaiian musicians) of John K. Almeida. He specialized in the style of singing that is unique to Hawaii, the soaring falsetto voice with its distinctive octave jumps and transition breaks. He became a prolific writer of Hawaiian songs, both hulas and lilting ballads. Adapting the professional name of Bill Alii'loa Lincoln, he recorded beginning in the mid 1940s and into the 1950s for the Bell and 49th State Hawaii record labels. His backing groups were always first rate from the early "Hawaiians" and "Serenaders" to the "Magic Islanders" perhaps his finest quartet. Some of his early musical compositions were "Leahi", "Pua Be Still", "Haleiwa Maid", and "Pua 'Iliahi" (known in English as the "Song of the Sandalwood Blossom") and "Nani Lawa'i". Although overshadowed by the superstars of Hawaiian music as recognized by the rest of the world such as Alfred Apaka and Don Ho, Lincoln continued to be a local favorite in both composing and performing.

As the music went through great changes in the early nineteen seventies, many young island performers returned to the roots of the culture, and many others combined the great variety of sounds and styles and turned the focus of their songs to cultural pride and a pronounced ethnic awareness of both the people and the natural resources of the land. The time of the "nightclub" performer and the hapa haole style of song seemed to be fading. Performers like Bill Alii'loa Lincoln were seen as a "throwback" to the days of the territory, and out of synch with the young Hawaiian voices and their boomer tourist listeners. By the mid and late nineteen seventies, this style of forties based music survived only in the main hotel rooms along Waikiki, and was seldom ever heard on the dwindling number of radio stations that played the music native to the state of Hawaii. Soon most of the older voices were still.

Now it was the birth of the new milennium, and there were signs of an awakening interest in the modern history of Hawaiian music. Much of it was in re-release in the newer CD format, even a number of vintage 78s and a collection of on air "Hawaii Calls ' radio programs which recalled such stars as Haunani Kahalewai, Ed Kenny, Danny Kaleikini, and Nina Kealiiwahamana. Making a thorough search of the internet, I found one lone reference to Bill Alii'loa Lincoln on a page dedicated to Hawaiian language song lyrics. Feeling that this was somewhat of a disservice, the page you are reading is the result. It is my tribute to my favorite Hawaiian performer, and I must admit any information on him has been anything but easy to discover. The Cord International sets have some early mid forties recordings, and the mid sixties-early seventies LPs may still be available in CD format.

 

The "Magic Islanders" - Annie Hu, Bill Alii'loa Lincoln, Eddie Pang, and Lei Cypriano

The Magic Islanders were the group that defined the sound of Bill Lincoln. Backing up his expressive vocals, whether on ballads or uptempo hulas, they provided great four part harmony and the most insistent ukulele rhythm you would ever want to hear. This ukulele sound is the feature that for me, is this group's signature instrumental sound. An acoustic guitar and amplified Hawaiian steel round out the instruments, and the steel is a compliment to the sound without overdoing the rising glissando, the recognizable sound of modern Hawaiian music. My favorite collection by the group is "Mahalo Nui" recorded for Tradewinds (#119). A great version of the Hawaiian Cowboy (paniolo) story in music is "Waimea Cowboy". Other standouts are "Pualeialoha", "Lei No Kaiulani", "Kawaihae Hula", "Pua Rose", "My Isle of Golden Dreams" and the title song. Another fine collection by this group that may still be in print is also on Tradewinds Records (#117) entitled simply Bill Alii'loa Lincoln. Two of Lincoln's trademark tunes are included - "Pua Be Still" and "Pua Iliahi". Also part of this welcomed group of performances are "Papakoleha", "Polianuanu", "The Song To Hawaii" and "Magic Island", a sort of informal theme song for the group. The two dozen or so songs on these two collections are a great indication of the style and sound of Bill Alii'loa Lincoln and The Magic Islanders.

In a somewhat revamped lineup, Lincoln has a third set of songs that may be available. This one too, was released originally on the Tradewinds Records label in the mid nineteen sixties. The title of this album is "Hula In Falsetto", and the supporting vocalists and musicians this time are Annie Hu from the Magic Islanders, Homer Hu, Eliza Sua, and longtime guitar great Jerry Byrd. The songs that are part of this collection include "Akaka Falls", "Moku O Keawe", "Ko Ipo Lei Manu", "Kapiolani" and "Na Ka Pueo". Bill Alii'loa Lincoln excels in the falsetto style that is so much a part of the Hawaiian musical story, and here he gives perfect evidence of his mastery of it. Bill Lincoln also took part in recording sessions that resulted in the album "I'll See You In Hawaii" which featured the vocals of Eddie Kekaula, and Bill joined Sol Bright, Benny Saks, and David Kelii, in the backing combo for the recording.

To all of you who want to hear what the music of the island state of Hawaii encompasses, by all means seek out the recordings of Bill Lincoln, and in them you will experience the development of the modern sound of Hawaii. The instrumentation that makes the sound unique, the ukuleles and steel guitar, and the vocals in both natural voice and falsetto, and the backing harmony, all come together in a blend of notes that tells all listeners that this is the true Hawaiian sound of music. Whether his own songs or the compositions of others, whether in Hawaiian language, English, or a combination of both, the talents of Bill Alii'loa Lincoln stand out as a master of the music.

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