Music: John Cruz earns Obama shaka

Nov. 14, 2011 | 1 Comment
John Cruz played a six-song mini-concert for Pres. Barack Obama and supporters on Monday in Ko Olina. (Courtesy photo)

John Cruz played a six-song mini-concert for Pres. Barack Obama and supporters on Monday in Ko Olina. (Courtesy photo)

BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / ekieszkowski@staradvertiser.com

“Island Style” musician John Cruz performed for President Barack Obama today at a campaign fundraiser at the Aulani resort, shared a greeting from a past high school athletic rival and earned a shoutout in the President’s speech.

Before Cruz’ performance, the musician playfully passed on greetings from a former Kamehameha student who remembered blocking a shot of Obama’s when the President was a high school basketball player at Punahou — sending the ball into the bleachers. During Obama’s speech, the President joked about the reminder, saying, “I didn’t appreciate that.”

Obama also praised Cruz at the opening of his talk, saying, “Please give a big round of applause to outstanding singer John Cruz.” (Read the rest of Obama’s fundraising talk here, and read the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s story about Obama’s appearance here.)

Cruz’s longtime manager Leslie Truglio met the President, too, and took the opportunity to check something she’d been told by Obama’s sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng — that Cruz’s biggest hit, the nostalgic “Island Style,” was on the President’s iPod.

Obama said, “Absolutely,” Truglio reports.

The President joked about basketball and gave Cruz a shoutout during his talk.

The President joked about basketball and gave Cruz a shoutout during his talk. (Associated Press)

Truglio passed on the rest of the story, which took place backstage after the President’s talk: “There were others in the room, including Brickwood Galuteria, who had missed John’s performance because they were waiting in line for a photo with Barack. John still had his guitar with him, so he started busting out tunes for everyone and literally, the whole room was singing with him,” Truglio said. “It was so special.”

Cruz played “Island Style,” “Hawaii Pono’i,” “America the Beautiful” and some other songs for the waiting admirers, until the Pres. Obama joined them. “People backstage were singing, getting chicken skin and cheering,” Truglio said.

After the President’s speech, when he saw Cruz again, Obama flashed the performer a smile and a shaka.

During the event, a fundraiser for political supporters, Cruz sang six songs: “Island Style,” Gabby Pahinui’s “Hi‘ilawe” (which has also been featured on the ‘Hawaii Five-0’ soundtrack), “One of These Days,” new songs “Prayer for a Friend” and “Whirl and Twirl,” and a Bob Marley mashup, “Rasta Man Chant/Time Will Tell.” The new songs may appear on Cruz’s third album, due out next year.

Jack Johnson, who recently performed at a similar event supporting Obama in California, recommended Cruz for the Hawaii fundraiser, Truglio said. “He sounded fantastic at his concert, by the way.”

  • Anonymous

    Mahalo Braddah John for representing Hawaiian Musicians in a positive light without sneaking in another agenda.