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John Koko, Bass Player and Vocalist for Makaha Sons, Dead at 51

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John Koko, Bass Player and Vocalist for Makaha Sons, Dead at 51
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John Koko, vocalist and bass player for the influential Hawaiian group Makaha Sons, died as a result of heart problems on Monday. John was 51. According to the Associated Press, Koko was looking into a heart transplant around the time of his passing.

The Makaha Sons of Ni‘ihau, which formed in 1976, has enjoyed quite a bit of success over the years, and helped popularize Hawaiian music outside of the culture. Following the death of the Kamakawiwo?ole brothers, the remaining members, Louis “Moon” Kauakah, Jerome Koko, and John Koko, dropped the “of Ni’hau” from their name. Over the years, the band has released over 20 albums and one DVD, all of which were distributed courtesy of their own label. In addition appearing on the TODAY show with Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric, they’ve also played for President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

In addition to their musical output, the band has recently taken to helping out local musicians who specialize in traditional Hawaiian music. The Makaha Sons Foundation also supports numerous charitable organizations, and has even helped families suffering from illnesses and provided scholarships to high school seniors.

John Koko, who grew up in Nanakuli, joined the band in 1982. According to his brother, Jerome, John suffered from heart problems all of his life. These issues, which prevented the talented musician from completing high school, ultimately derailed his dreams of becoming a baseball and football player. However, in 1999, John succeeded in obtaining his GED, an accomplishment he was reportedly very proud of.

Sadly, due to John’s increasingly poor health, the band was forced to postpone recent shows in Argentina, Brazil, and Germany. “He was a fighter,” his brother explained. “After a while, you could see it on his face.”

Koko is survived by his wife, four sons, and two grandchildren.

John Koko, Bass Player and Vocalist for Makaha Sons, Dead at 51
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  • Ms. Pat Duffus

    I just found out yesterday of our beloved John passing. i have no words. Here i’m getting ready to go see then in Orlando on July 21st. Got an e-mail that the show will go on. i’m glad but i’m so sad that John will not be there. Before i found out that they were not coming back this year.. i spoke to John as he signed the cd.. i said “i’ll see you next year” and he said ” no you won’t”. wow… now i KNOW i won’t. But will see you John in Heaven. Will be missing you. Like one of the song i love so so much… i say to you. ” I’ll remember you” love and blessing to you family.

  • john mahina romero

    I am a Hawaii musician also grew up listening to, these guys the best they were approachable and cool but john was the only one who remembered me and that is how genuine he is, Makana sons came to Lana’i last year they never played here for over 10 years what a coincidence that John got to play here one.last time what a lost for us but a gain for the lord our god

  • Mary

    RIP, John…. I will always remember how you teased me in Watsonville after I bought the last lau-lau and you, next in line, couldn’t get any. You made me feel as if we knew each other forever in that moment. MAHALO for teaching me what ALOHA really means.

  • Mary

    RIP, John…. I will always remember how you teased me for the rest of that evening in Watsonville after I bought the last of the lau-lau and you, next in line, couldn’t get any. Every time you complained from the stage “Watch our for Mary, she might beat YOU to the lau-lau like she did me” and everybody laughed, I knew we had become friends. You made me feel as if we knew each other forever in that moment. MAHALO for teaching me what ALOHA really means. I will miss you.

  • Suesan and Koa

    We love you John. We live on mainland but every time the Makaha Sons were near us we took our down syndrome son Koa to see you guys. Koa worshipped John he takes his “bat” which is his guitar and yes his base and would follow and sing every song you guys play. We called it speech therapy. John always showed such love and laughter towards Koa each time he saw him. Koa was thrilled to dance his chant and hula at Hoike Hawaii hula competitions in Orlando each year we were able to go.I will miss this year but know it will be a moving experience for those who do attend. I want the Makaha Sons and family to know how truly grateful we are for all the times we have spent with you through the years and how much we love you all and John for how they made our son feel a part of them. God bless and keep you all through this time and let his light shine down on you all. With sad heartsa, Susan Ralph and Koa Vicens