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John Koko, bass player for Makaha Sons, dies at age 51

By Gary Kubota

LAST UPDATED: 9:50 a.m. HST, Jun 26, 2012

• John Kapualani Koko: Photo gallery

A longtime member of the Makaha Sons who performed at Carnegie Hall and before President Bill Clinton died Monday.

John Kapualani Koko was 51.

Koko, who had heart problems and was looking forward to a heart transplant, died at about 4:30 p.m. Monday at Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical  Center, his brother Jerome said.

"I wish I had him just a little bit more," said Jerome, also a member of the Makaha Sons.

Koko, born on Aug. 24, 1960, grew up in a family of five brothers and five sisters in Nanakuli and began his career with the Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau in 1982.

The group included John who played bass, Jerome on guitar, Louis "Moon" Kauakahi on guitar, and well-known Hawaiian singer Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwo'ole.

The group who helped to popularize Hawaiian music won numerous awards, including Na Hoku Hanohano Awards and Hawaii Music Awards.

When Kamakawiwo'ole left the Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau in 1993 the group became a trio and changed the name to Makaha Sons.

Jerome Koko said the family was planning to meet today to decide on the memorial service and would probably hold a fund-raiser to defray medical expenses.

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