Jim Linkner, a prolific mover-and-shaker of Hawaii’s recording community, died May 6 in his sleep in his Kailua home. He was in his late 70s.
His son, Dylan Linkner, confirmed his dad’s passing on social media.
“On May 6, my dad peacefully went in his sleep and left us physically. But this man’s spirit will live on forever. (He was) Truly a legend in many aspects of his life, husband, father, grandfather, music producer, mentor, joke teller, storyteller, and friend,” Dylan stated, creating a tapestry of a beloved and versatile figure.
Jim Linkner, pictured above, was also a pioneering and influential behind-the-scenes force at a time five decades ago when Hawaiian music was bubbling in a renaissance in island culture, helping shape the islands with streams of joyous Hawaiian songs. If you check your aging vinyl LPs, 45s, and CDs, his name is likely to pop up amid the credits and define a spark of inspired genius.
Linkner was the right person for the right time, to boost and explore the mele of Hawaii. The artists benefitted, providing tracks for island radio, enabling emerging performers to break out and find gigs at Waikiki hotels as the hospitality industry also was shaping its future.
Linkner’s collaboration with Keali‘i Reichel, a Maui-based kumu hula who had a beautiful and undiscovered voice in the Hawaiian strain as well in selected pop tunes, perhaps was his most stunning achievement. Linkner produced and engineered such chart-topping albums like “Kawaipunahele,” “E O Mai,” “Ke’alaokamaile” and “Melelana,” and helped make Reichel one of the most compelling island acts.
“Jim was our mentor, our business partner and our friend,” said Reichel and his life and business partner Fred Krause, in a joint statement. “Since tracking him down in 1994 to ask if heʻd record an unknown Kumu Hula from Maui, Jim has been at our side as an integral partner in Punahele Productions. Without Jimʻs experience and creativity as producer and engineer, we donʻt think anyone outside our families would have heard Kawaipunahele. We are grateful for his unwavering support, technical skill in the studio and his loving friendship. He was family and he will be missed dearly.”
His remarkable discography tapped a spectrum of other island talent, including Robert Cazimero, Ledward Kaapana, Irmgard Aluli and Puamana, Nina Keali‘iwahama and Charles K.L. Davis, Frank DeLima, Melveen Leed, The Krush, Karen Keawehawai‘i and scores more.
One of his treasures – a compilation disc, entitled “Hawaii’s Greatest Contemporary Classics,” released in 1987 – had an all-star track list including Jerry Santos and Olomana, Cecilio and Kapono, Keola and Kapono Beamer, Gabby Pahinui and the Sons of Hawaii, Nohelani Cypriano, Jay Larrin, The Sunday Manoa featuring Robert and Roland Cazimero plus Peter Moon, and The Makaha Sons. The CD reflected the pulse of an artistic volcano, with a dynamite roster of troupers.
While his finger was mostly on the pulse of island songs, Linkner also had an earlier life as an event promoter, an active member of the Elks, and in more recent times, a former president of HARA, the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts, which produces the annual awards show. His work as a recording engineer and producer spanned the decades and earned him two fistfuls of Hoku awards – 17 at last count.
Circulation problems – he had his right leg amputated – curtailed his activities in recent years.
“Our family is okay and appreciates everyone’s condolences and prayers,” Dylan continued. “But knowing my dad, he would appreciate you not mourning his exit but sharing your best story/time with him. So, feel free to share. We love you dad and we know you are having fun up there in the heavens.” …
And that’s Show Biz. …