Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Harry Owens & His Royal Hawaiians

Sweet Leilani

First recorded (as “Leilani”) by Sol Ho’opi’i & His Novelty Quartet (1935).
Hit version by Bing Crosby (US #1 1937).
Also recorded by Harry Owens & His Royal Hawaiians (1938), Andy Williams (1959), Sam Cooke (1960).

From the wiki: “Harry Owens wrote the song in 1934 for his just-born daughter, Leilani. The name has a figurative meaning: Small Hawaiian children were carried on their parents’ shoulders like a lei (garland), so the name took on the meaning ‘heavenly child’.

“‘Leilani’ was first recorded in Hawaii by Sol Ho’opi’i & His Novelty Quartet in 1935, as the B-side of the Brunswick Records’ 78-rpm ‘Hawaiian Honeymoon’. The song was famously featured in the 1937 motion picture, Waikiki Wedding, for which its Bing Crosby recording won the Academy Award for Best Original Song with Crosby’s recording going on to become one of the top hits of 1937. The song made another film appearance in the 1938 comedy Cocoanut Grove (set in Los Angeles; not Hawaii), starring Fred MacMurray, performed by the song’s composer Harry Owens & His Royal Hawaiians.

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