Melveen Leed : "da Tita" ©2005JCMarion



Melveen Leed was born and raised on the island of Molokai. As far back as her early childhood she liked the art of music and especially to sing. As she developed her talent for vocalizing, there were many avenues for her to follow. The music native to her people and the islands was foremost, but also she liked to delve into jazz, country, and mainstream pop music. During the mid nineteen sixties, Leed was honored as Miss Molokai and at about the same time began her "long and winding road" as one of Hawaii's premier performers.

 

Some of her early record albums recorded for the local Lehua label showed her vast knowledge of styles of music and her interpretations of a wide variety of songs. "Live At The Garden Palace" (#2023) featured such tunes as "What Now My Love?", "The Shadow Of Your Smile", "Edelweiss" and "Besame Mucho". The album "Give Me Tomorrow" (#2061) included "The Impossible Dream", "Ode To Billy Joe", local favorite "E Mama E", and the title song. The most influential recording from those years was "Hawaiian Country" (#7019) released in 1975 with a number of Hawaiian songs done with a country feel. Some of the songs on this original recording were "Paniola Country", "Hiilawe", "Hanohano Molokai" and "The Green Green Grass Of Home". This album gained popularity beyond the boundaries of the island state, making Leed a popular and well known ambassador of Hawaiian music.

 

The expected follow up album out one year later was called "My Hawaiian Country" (# 7022) and once again featured guitar wizard Jerry Byrd in a featured role. The mix of songs on this collection included "Pupule", "Before The Next Teardrop Falls", "Lei Ka'Ahumanu", and "Country Girl", which would serve as part of her musical identity. This was solidified when the next LP album for Lehua was released which was called "Melveen : The Hawaiian Country Girl" ( # 7025) and included the songs "I Can't Stop Loving You", "Gentle On My Mind", an all Hawaiian medley, and "You Are My Sunshine". For this popular work, Leed was awarded the Na Hoku Hanohano ( the Hawaiian Grammy) for best female vocalist. She also won two other Hoku awards for the year.

Now readily identified as the "The Hawaiian Country Girl", she recorded "My Hawaiian Song Of Love" (# 7030) in 1977, another album with Jerry Byrd. Once again it was a mixture of popular country tunes and songs of Hawaii. In 1978 "I Love You Hawaii" on # 7036 for Lehua was a return to her Hawaiian roots with a tribute to her home state and its traditions and history. Again, Leed was the winner of the Hoku for top female singer. In the year 1981 Leed's album called "The Best Of " was another success and another award winner from HARA, the recording group in Hawaii. About this time Melveen Leed showed her expanding talent by becoming a limited character in the long running hit television show "Hawaii Five&endash; 0" playing a nightclub singer on the Honolulu scene.

 

Leed continued to highlight her country style and the result in the mid eighties was "Grand Old Hawaiian Music Nashville Style", which won her another Na Hoku Hanohano award. Her "Best Of &endash; Volume 2" won the award for best anthology recording in 1986 which was followed the next year with a best female vocal award for the album "My Isle Of Golden Dreams". Leed said Aloha to the decade of the nineteen eighties with another fine anthology collection called "Hawaiian Country Hits". Volume Two of the series was released in 1992. Soon after this record was released Melveen Leed moved to Tahiti the home of her husband and one CD came about during her years away from Hawaii. This was "Sur Cette Plage" which featured some lyrics sung in French. The collection included the lovely "Tanqueray" sung in harmony on this lovely melody. During her years away, Lehua released a CD called "My Inspiration", another new direction for the vocal talents of Leed. These songs as the title suggests, are spiritual in nature and give a heartfelt look into the personality of Melveen Leed.

The "Hawaiian Country Girl" returned to her home state in 1999, and before long returned also to the performing and recording field. She joined in with three of her contemporaries to form a group known as The Local Divas. Melveen Leed and her partners in song &endash; Carol Kai, Loyal Garner, and Nohelani Cypriano, were a sensation and had many offers around the islands to perform. The foursome recorded a Christmas album for their newly formed recording company called Local Diva Productions. They followed this initial effort with a 2000 CD entitled "Timeless". Beyond singing and performing live, Leed has also taught vocal and dancing through the years and delved into retailing. One of her recent enterprises is her own fragrance line for women called "Manoa", and she is also planning an expansion into a men's line.

 

In the new millennium, not all was happy and uplifting for the Hawaiian performer known throughout the islands as "da Tita". Her partner in the Local Divas, and a long time performer on the island stages and recording studio Loyal Garner passed away, as did long time friend and performer Myra English best remembered for her recording of the song "Drinking Chapagne". Even closer to home was the serious illness and hospitalization suffered by Melveen Leed as she prepared for a concert remembering Loyal Garner in 2004. A CD was released that year by Leed entitled "A Part Of Me, A Part Of You" for Lehua (Surfside) that contained mostly Hawaiian songs, but also features Leed at her country best with "Have I Told You Lately", "When The Leaves Turn Brown", and "Music Man Kind Of Love". The title song is a fine ballad, and the Hawaiian numbers from the album are superb especially the melodically wonderful "Kalena" and the nostalgic feel of "Ka Lae O Ka'ena".

 

Melveen soon recovered and was back performing in July of 2004. A medical fund raising concert for her at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani in Waikiki brought out many of the biggest names in Hawaiian entertainment &endash; Don Ho, Genoa Keawe, Cecilio (Rodriguez), Nina Kealiiwahamana, Andy Bumatai, and many others. Melveen Leed herself closed the show which was recorded in a two disc DVD set of this wonderful evening. The last few years has seen Leed do many benefits across Hawaii for a number of causes, and so many of Hawaii's best turned out to return the favor for such a deserving person. Leed has also gotten much praise in recent years for her ability in creative art by putting her visions on canvas and paper.

 

Melveen Leed now in her sixties, remains as one of Hawaii's greatest ambassadors of the history and culture of her people. In her fifth decade of performing the music that she loves, Leed continues to create many moments of enjoyment for her many fans and many more that have just discovered what a marvelous and enduring performer that she is. "da Tita" rules !

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