Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sir Howard Morrison - A great entertainer, a great leader of his people and a great New Zealander has died.

Sir Howard Morrison passed away after a heart attack at his home in Rotorua. He was 74.

For more than 50 years he provided a unique Maori voice, becoming perhaps the greatest ambassador to New Zealand music the country has seen.

He was born in Rotorua in 1935 to a family he described as poor and has described his life as "beautiful, simple, but meaningful".

Morrison always loved music and once said he "fell in love with the way I sounded".

He left school to become a freezing worker, but by the mid-1950s he started putting together groups for gigs at local rugby club socials.

But it was the Howard Morrison Quartet that catapulted him into the spotlight and turned them into one of the country's original pop groups - and the first fully professional entertainers. The quartet was originally named the Ohinemutu Quartet and included Gerry Merito, Morrison's brother Laurie and his cousin John.

Their debut record, My Old Man's An All Black, topped the charts in 1960, selling 80,000 copies. By 1965 the quartet disbanded and Howard Morrison launched his solo career.

He married his wife Kuia at age 22.

In 1966 he made it onto the big screen, topping the bill in the musical comedy Don't Let It Get You. The role helped him win entertainer of the year and other awards would follow, including being named the 1982 television entertainer of the year.

Sir Howard was the uncle of movie actor Temuera Morrison.

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