Producer revived ‘lost’ recordings of islands’ music
By John Berger / email@example.com
Michael Cord, the musician and record producer whose restoration and reissue of vintage Hawaiian recordings made an unparalleled contribution to the preservation of 20th-century Hawaiian and hapa haole music, died Sunday at his home in Ojai, Calif. He was 65.
Harry B. Soria Jr., recipient of eight Na Hoku Hanohano Awards for his work producing and annotating Cord’s HanaOla/Cord International releases, recalled Cord’s “huge impact on Hawaiian music.”
“You may not know the name Michael Cord, but you certainly know his work,” Soria said. “Many of today’s Hawaiian-music artists are regularly performing songs that Cord International restored from lost 78 rpm recordings and brought back to life for new generations to perform and dance to.”
George Winston, Grammy Award-winning pianist and founder of Dancing Cat Records, described Cord as “a great curator of music, giving us so many things to hear for study and inspiration that we would have never been able to hear.” Hawaii musician Ken Emerson said Cord “preserved what could have been lost for all future generations. His importance as a curator of Hawaiian culture should not be underestimated.”
Born Michael G.H Badik in New York and raised in Las Vegas, Cord began playing music professionally as a teenager. He came to Hawaii in 1968 and made a name for himself locally playing bass with a rock band, The Sun & the Moon, but it was as a member of a later group, Golden Throat, whose other members included Dennis Graue and Nohelani Cypriano, that he found his calling. Cord produced Golden Throat’s self-titled debut album and worked with Cypriano and Graue in launching her career as a solo artist with a new style of contemporary music that was described as “nostalgic Polynesian funk.” Cypriano’s debut release, a 45 rpm EP, was also the first release for Cord’s record label, HanaOla Records.
“I really think that a lot of my opportunity in how I broke out on the music scene wasn’t just because of (being on) ‘Homegrown’ and (my first hit) ‘Lihue’; it was really him,” Cypriano said. “Dennis and I were experimenting with the style, but it was also Michael’s suggestions of what he wanted to hear. We had some wonderful times together, and I’ll always be grateful that he believed in me.”
Cord was living in California in the 1980s when he noticed that many of the important old-time Hawaiian record labels had gone out of business and their releases were out of print. In some cases the original master recordings had been lost. In 1991 he began leasing the rights to those old recordings and digitally restoring them for reissue. Among the Hawaii record labels Cord brought back to life were Bell, 49th State Hawaii, Mele, Trim, Tradewinds and Gold Coin. He also released previously unissued early recordings by Cecilio & Kapono and privately made a recording of Pua Almeida at the Moana Hotel in 1966.
Cord’s most recent project, an anthology of privately made recordings of Pauline Kekahuna from the archives of Kent Ghirard, was released in March.
Cord is survived by wife and business partner MaryAnn Michalski Cord, mother Eleanor Badik, sister Tamara Badik Johnson and hanai son Joshua Thayer.
Plans for a celebration of life are pending.