Jimmy Borges

Wednesday - November 02, 2005
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Jimmy Borges
Jimmy Borges

Jimmy Borges, who appeared on MidWeek‘s cover way back in January 1991, says he is singing better than he ever has. And that’s saying a lot for a man who has been in the music business for 50 years.

“I’ve retired from singing in nightclubs because I just didn’t want to work until 2 a.m. anymore,” says the now 70-year-old performer who was recently given a birthday party by Motown founder Barry Gordie. “I pick and choose the jobs that I want to do. I do a lot of corporate events and a lot of benefits.” On his schedule for the upcoming months are the PBS Anniversary, a benefit for La Pietra and maybe his favorite event, the annual Friends and Nabors concert (with Jim Nabors) Dec. 2-4. “That’s the finest Christmas show I’ve ever been involved with, mainly because they utilize so many children and young people. And when you mix the Hawaiian with the Christmas carols, and you hear them doing Silent Night in Hawaiian and with the hula, every year I promise I’m not going to cry, and I cry. Every year I cry because it’s so touching and so indigenous of Hawaii.”

Borges is hardly slowing down - he’s a member of the Honolulu Police Commission, and is pictured here with Officer Damon Taylor and Deputy Chief Paul Putzulu.

There was a time when the only places to be were Trappers and Keoni’s. The Waikiki clubs were the gathering places for not only Borges and other top local talent, but for visiting stars and starlettes of TV, film and recording. Borges is finishing an autobiography, Confessions of a Saloon Singer, that will recall Borges’ long career and those who helped make it interesting. For many years Waikiki offered a haven of sorts for visiting stars wanting to let their hair down, escape the Hollywood media machine and just have fun. “Tony Bennett would do two hours. Diana Ross would sing sometimes at Keoni’s,” says Borges, who had a unique way of getting famed singers to join him on stage. He’d introduce the visiting star to the audience, explaining that the celebrity was not there to perform, just to relax. He would then pay homage to the star by singing one of their famous songs. It didn’t take long for Jimmy to have some company on stage. “It works every time. No singer wants to listen to someone else sing their hit songs.”

One point of clarification. Because of Borges’ performance of songs by Frank Sinatra, he has always be labeled as a Sinatra protege of sorts. That’s not exactly true. Sinatra, very protective of his music and legacy, granted Borges complete access to his song library and the freedom to interpret them as he saw fit. And that’s exactly what he did. Frank’s songs in Jimmy’s style.

“I didn’t want to do a tribute to Sinatra, but to the great songs that he sang.” - Steve Murray

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