Inductee Biography for R. CARLOS NAKAI
R. Carlos Nakai was born in Flagstaff, Arizona in 1946 of Navajo – Ute heritage. As a child he attended many traditional ceremonies where he saw first hand the customs and traditions of his native American ancestors.
At age 10, RC learned to play the trumpet. In grade school he participated in band and dreamed of becoming a professional musician. While serving in the US Navy during the Vietnam era, RC was involved in a car accident that mangled his mouth and ruined his hopes for a career as a concert trumpeter.
In the early 70’s a gifted wooden flute changed RC’s life. He researched the instrument’s indigenous roots and began playing melodies similar to ones he remembered hearing as a child. His colleagues and friends encouraged him to record his tunes.
In 1983 he recorded “Changes”, and sold the tapes independently. Soon after, he secured a recording contract with Phoenix-based Canyon Records Productions.
Twenty years and more than 30 albums later, Nakai is one of the most prominent figures in native American music. He has earned two gold records, six Grammy award nominations, the Governor of Arizona Arts Award, and an honorary doctorate degree from Northern Arizona University. His solo recordings and collaborations with other musicians have sold over two million copies. His notoriety has opened the door for RC to tour the world, performing and lecturing on American Indian culture and philosophy.