Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bruno Mars: From Hawaii's Young Elvis Impersonator to Pop Superstar

I completely remember this 1990 cover (above) of Midweek, a free weekly newspaper mailed to homes in Honolulu. The idea of a pint-sized Elvis impersonator performing in Waikiki was enough of a novelty that this kid made an impression (so much so that he even appeared in the movie "Honeymoon in Vegas").

That kid? Bruno Mars.

As I watched live at the Staples Center as Bruno performed with B.o.B. and Janelle Monae, I couldn't help but think about how cool it was to see this local boy done good. And I also thought about how his upbringing in Hawaii influenced Mars' music -- including his R&B and reggae influences, two genres that dominated Hawaii's radio airwaves in the early 1990s.

It also got me to thinking about other Hawaii pop stars through the years. Bette Midler, for example, remains the most famous (and successful) graduate of my alma mater, Radford High School. A few more Hawaii stars:

Yvonne Elliman, "If I Can't Have You"

Kauai's own Glenn Medeiros, "She Ain't Worth It," featuring, yes, a rap by Bobby Brown. (Hey, that was a big thing in 1990.) This song hit #1, but Glenn is probably still best known for -- "Nothing's Going to Change My Love for You." That video has 6.6 million views on YouTube -- that's just insane.

Hoku (yes, the daughter of Don Ho), "Perfect Day"

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