Island to Island with musician John Cruz

Musician John Cruz from Hawaii. —Courtesy John Cruz

Singer-songwriter John Cruz has a passion for islands. The Hawaiian-born and -raised musician spent many summers on the Vineyard back in the 1980s and ’90s, when he split his time between here and New York City, where he was just making a name for himself in the industry. Fast-forward a few decades, and now Cruz, who has gone on to firmly establish himself in his home state and beyond, is back on the Vineyard for a one-night performance at the Portuguese-American Club on Sunday, Sept. 24, at 5 pm.

Among his numerous accomplishments, Cruz contributed an original song to the Grammy awardwinning CD “Slack Key Guitar” in 2005, and played for Barack Obama during the fellow Hawaiian’s second term as president.

The prolific artist has recorded two CDs featuring his unique blend of Hawaiian, blues, folk, and R&B.

Cruz’s first album, “Acoustic Soul,” is one of the bestselling Hawaiian records of all time, and the song “One of These Days” reached No. 4 on Billboard’s World Music chart. Today, over 1 million people stream Cruz’s music every year, as he enjoys regular plays on SiriusXM and prominent features on hit “Playing for Change” videos.

Over the years, Cruz has attracted some important fans from the music world, including Jack Johnson, Jackson Browne, Eddie Vedder, Jimmy Buffett, Lisa Loeb, Trey Anastasio, and others. Cruz co-wrote a song with Trey that was released on the Phish frontman’s solo CD, “Bar 17.” World champion surfer Kelly Slater featured three of Cruz’s songs on his DVD, “Letting Go,” in 2006. Jack Johnson has released “Island Style” on several CDs, and sometimes plays it in concert. John joined Robert Plant and Allison Krauss, along with other singer-songwriters, on the WMVY Radio compilation CD “Fresh Produce Volume 4,” with his hit song “Missing You.”

In October 2011, John’s rendition of the traditional Hawaiian song “Hi’ilawe” was released on the official “Hawaii Five-O” soundtrack, and featured on an episode of the hit show, along with artists like Bob Dylan, Train, the Goo Goo Dolls, Ziggy Marley, and Jimmy Cliff.

In October 2006, a documentary film on the artist’s life, “Made of Music: The Story of John Cruz,” debuted at the Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival in Honolulu.

Cruz’s recent touring has included stops at Bluesfest in Australia, Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Summerstage in New York’s Central Park, Carnegie Hall, and prominent national venues up and down both coasts. He played 14 shows at the SXSW (South by Southwest) music festival in Austin, Texas, in March 2009 as one of the first Hawaiians ever invited to showcase there. John headlined four galas during Barack Obama’s Inauguration, and performed for and met with the president during a visit to Hawaii.

All of this, and he’s headed our way to help raise funds for the people recovering from the recent wildfires in Maui.

John Cruz will perform at the Portuguese-American Club on Sunday, Sept 24. Doors open at 5 pm for a 6 pm concert. Tickets are $25 at the door, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. This is a ticketholder-only event. The bar will close for regular business at 4:30 pm on Sunday, and reopen to ticketholders only at 5 pm. Tickets are limited, and can be purchased at the bar at the club.