Māori entertainer Tina Cross says musical icon Ray Columbus, who died on Tuesday, not only discovered her but also left a lasting legacy for other Māori singers.
“I was only 16 when Ray first heard me sing. At the time the industry was lacking in young female Maori performers,” says Cross (Ngāti Porou/Ngāti Kuri). “Ray saw that talent in me and I think that’s why he encouraged me to pursue my career.”
Born in Christchurch, the ‘She’s a Mod’ hitmaker died peacefully at his home in north Auckland after a four-year battle with ill health. He was 74.
One of the country’s most successful musical exports, Columbus was the first Kiwi to record an overseas number one single and was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1974 for his commitment to music and show business. Columbus mentored many of our most successful entertainers – including Cross.
Cross was the lead singer in her high school band when they auditioned for Ray in Auckland. He automatically saw her talent and provided her with many opportunities – including various TV appearances. The pair even recorded a duet together.
“He plucked me out of the band. It was my very first start in television. If I hadn’t gotten that start via Ray, the chances are that I may not have pursued a music career.”
“He taught me how to be a professional, how to be prepared and to always dress for the occasion.”
Columbus is survived by his loving wife Linda, his two children and three grandchildren. A public funeral is planned at St Patrick’s Cathedral in central Auckland, this Saturday, at 11am.