Farewell Sir Howard

Cross-posted on Lively.

Howard Morrison (far left) and the Howard Morrison Quartet, 1962

Howard Morrison (far left) and the Howard Morrison Quartet, 1962

It’s a song that many throughout the world know. A song that was given to our local tongue by Howard Morrison when he sang ‘Whakaaria Mai‘ for the queen at a royal command performance in 1981. It’s a song that today is in my mind, and perhaps in the minds of many, as we remember Sir Howard Morrison, who died in Rotorua today, 24 September 2009, aged 74.

Known as ‘The Sinatra of New Zealand’ and ‘Ol’ Brown Eyes,’ he first came to prominence with the Howard Morrison Quartet in the 1950s and went on to establish himself as a successful solo performer. With a career spanning five decades, his influence extended beyond entertainment through to work with the Department of Māori Affairs and concern about achievement among young Māori.

Accolades followed him throughout his life. He was recognised first in 1976, becoming a member of the Order of the British Empire, and again in 1990 when he received a knighthood. When, in 2007, Dr Ngahuia Te Awekotuku (then Chair of Te Waka Toi) presented Sir Howard with the Te Tohu Tiketike a Te Waka Toi, she characterised Morrison as ‘Not just a great artist and entertainer but an outstanding New Zealander.’

With the closing lines of ‘Whakaaria Mai’, we remember you.

Ki kona au
Titiro atu ai
Ora, mate
Hei ahau koe noho ai

There I will be
In life, in death
let me rest in thee


For more on Sir Howard Morrison:
• biographies from NZHistory.net.nz and NZMusic.net.nz
• television clips from NZOnScreen and their discussion forum
• the New Zealand Herald obituary
• the cover of Te Ao Hou from March 1962, featuring the Howard Morrison Quartet, and the full-text article.

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