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Piliopo Nelson-Retzlaff


Born: 1912 Died: 1987


Piliopo Nelson-Retzlaff was born Joyce Rosabel Nelson on Christmas Day, 25 December 1912; passed away 13 January 1987.

She loved music and always owned a baby grand piano. There were always blank music manuscript pages lying around as I was growing up.

I remember when she received her APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association) cheques. It was always a cause of celebration. I do not know if she even cashed these cheques. They were not large amounts (maybe $50.00 by today’s standards) but she would always proudly tell me “Someone, somewhere, out there, is either singing, playing, but at least appreciating my music!”

We always had 78s at home. Mostly of Mavis Rivers who recorded most of her songs. Mavis was famous, even appearing with Frank Sinatra on one occasion, and her equally famous son Matt Catingub is a brilliant musician/conductor/arranger who has conducted the Hawai’i Philharmonic and many other prominent orchestras. I was privileged to be present in Faato’ia when he was bestowed the La’auli title by His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II.

In its series of articles, memorialising famous women in the celebration in 2018 of 125 years of Woman’s suffrage in New Zealand, the NZ Herald ran a glowing tribute to Mavis Rivers’ musical talents.

Piliopo was instrumental in getting Tuiletufuga Papali’i Henry Hunkin and Willie Miller to form their famous duo group “Tuli Brothers”. They toured Australia and performed in many other venues throughout the South Pacific. The Hunkin and Miller legacies lives on in their many talented children. They are all well known musicians and are blessed with many musical talents, especially their beautiful voices.

Since the Facebook page was launched by Poulima on my mother’s birthday (25 December 2018), there have been an avalanche of new information kindly provided to us.

I was not aware that the famous To’omaletai Jack Laban had even recorded the beautiful “Farewell Samoa”.

This SOUNZ page is to be the catalyst of more to come. The plan is an album of her music by various artists. I have suggested that Henry Hunkin Jr (married to my niece Gaumata’u) could do a Natalie Cole like voice-over with his father’s original version of “Can’t you see I’m sorry” or “I’m looking for a little man called LOVE”.

I am grateful to my family who have supported the establishment of this page. There have also have been many contributions from friends and colleagues who have made a major contribution to a greater appreciation not only of my mother and her music, but especially those artists who appreciated that music and performed many of her songs.

This music is no longer under copyright. So please feel free to record it, or use it as you wish. We would however respectfully request that there is an acknowledgement that these are her compositions.

My mother’s love for Samoa is clearly articulated in the beautiful lyrics of “Farewell Samoa” and “My South Seas Island Dream”.

My favourite has always been “It is only a Memory”. My favourite lines “I wonder if you ever think of me or if your heart so completely free. The sweetness of all you once meant to me, will always be a sweet memory”.

I always believed this song would have been a massive hit if sung by a Frank Sinatra or a Tony Bennett.

Even today, the right singer with the right arrangement, can take this song to new heights.

“Can’t you see I’m sorry” was composed as an apology to my father and I have always joked that if that apology had not been accepted I would not be here today!

This page would not have been possible without the hard work and perseverance of another great musical talent and son of Safune, Poulima Salima Mamea.

Piliopo was a Safune girl. Just as her father Ta’isi Nelson, was essentially a Safune boy. A village in Savai’i where many proud, and extremely talented people are both born and bred.

For me personally, it is highly satisfying that one of Sa Mamea’s sons should be commissioned to do this work.

We thank God for the gift of Piliopo’s life and music. Our brother Tui has sadly passed away. On behalf of my sister Lani and all our family - we ask only that you enjoy Piliopo’s music.

Fa’afetai for coming on Piliopo’s page and we pray God will mightily bless you all.

Alofa’aga and Blessings to you all,

Tugaga Telefoni Retzlaff

Composed (6)

Can't You See I'm Sorry

music and lyrics by Piliopo Nelson-Retzlaff

Farewell Samoa

music and lyrics by Piliopo Nelson-Retzlaff

I'm Looking For A Little Man Called "LOVE"

music and lyrics by Piliopo Nelson-Retzlaff

It Is Only A Memory

music and lyrics by Piliopo Nelson-Retzlaff

My South Sea Island Dream

music and lyrics by Piliopo Nelson-Retzlaff

Tautalatala/Too much talk

music and lyrics by Piliopo Nelson-Retzlaff