New Zealand singer-songwriter, poet and gay activist Mahinarangi Tocker died Tuesday (April 15) in an Auckland hospital after an asthma attack. She was 52.
Tocker, one of the best known of Maori musicians and performers, recorded her first album “Clothesline Conversation” in 1982, and wrote 600 songs in her career.
But it wasn’t until 1997 that she had her breakthrough with “Te Rip” produced by NZ singer songwriter Shona Laing and released through Sony/Tristar/Columbia. She followed it with a series of self-produced releases through Jayrem Records including “Hei Ha!” (2002) and “Mongrel In Me” (2005) which alluded to her Maori, Celtic and Hebrew heritage.
TV host and performer Ramon Te Wake described Tocker as “like our Joni Mitchell, in that she crossed so many styles, and was an inspiration as a musician and as a person.”
She also composed music with Split Enz’s Tim Finn and Eddie Raynor, blues guitarist Hammond Gable, Paul Casserly of the band the Strawpeople and classical composer Ross Harris, among others. She performed at folk and world music festivals in North America, Belgium and Australia as well as Auckland’s Big Gay Out, and Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
She was a founding trustee of the NZ Music Industry Commission and, between 2003 and 2004, was a member of the composers advisory panel for Sounz, the Centre for NZ Music.
In recent years, she fought for acceptance of the mentally ill, taking part in the Like Minds television campaign dealing with depression.
For her services to music, she became a Member of the New Zealand Order Of Merit in January 2008.