Friday, March 04, 2005

Martin Denny, 94, has died

Martin Denny, the man who created “exotica” music in the 1950s and lived to see it enjoy renewed world-wide popularity as “lounge music” and “tiki culture,” died last night [March 2] at his Hawaii-Kai residence, five weeks short of his 94th birthday.

Christina Denny, his daughter and primary care-giver, said that her father “passed peacefully at 9 p.m.” and that he had been “ready to go.”

“With the passing of Martin Denny, the world has lost one of its great popular musicians,” said Michael J. Largarticha, Musicians Association of Hawaii. “He created a sound that remains unique to this day; an entire genre of music which Martin described as a fusion of Asian, South Pacific, American Jazz, Latin American and Classical.”

He had been in declining health for the last two years, and had appeared to be near death several times in recent months, but he always dealt stoically with his increasingly limited diet and mobility, and all the related inconveniences. Denny drew crowds of admirers whenever he appeared and thrilled audiences wherever he performed...

Although some writers over the years described his music as “lightweight entertainment” or even “kitchy,” the trademark “jungle noises” and bird calls usually overshadowed surprisingly substantial musical arrangements that reflected Denny’s formal training as a pianist and decades of professional experience...

Denny’s first recording of “exotica” was made for Liberty Records in 1956. He re-recorded it in 1958. When Liberty released “Quiet Village” as a single in 1959 it reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and a new genre of music was launched.

He was — and still is — one of the very few Hawaii recording artists to appear on any of the six major Billboard record charts.

Denny’s visibility as a pop chart hitmaker had waned by the end of the ’60s but his music remained popular in many parts of the world until it was rediscovered by a new generation of music fans in the ’90s. Much of his early catalog was re-issued on CD with Denny providing extensive additional annotation, and web sites and “fanzines” were devoted to him.


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