Thursday, July 20, 2006
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - The Voice Of An Angel
Israel "Bruddah Iz" Kamakawiwo'ole (May 20, 1959 – June 26, 1997) (pronounced Kom-mah-ka-why-woh-who-lee) was a popular entertainer and singer in Hawaii until his death at the age of 38. He became famous outside Hawaii when his album Facing Future was released in 1993 with his medley of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World". The song has been included in the end of several movies, including Finding Forrester, Meet Joe Black, and 50 First Dates. Additionally, it featured prominently in the 2000 summer series "Young Americans" on the WB television network, a 2002 episode of the TV series ER, a 2003 episode of "Charmed" entitled "Lucky Charmed," "Scrubs" season 5 episode 7, and the TV show Cold Case. The song has also been used in a Lynx spray and a Kellogg's Rice Krispies advertisement in 2005 and 2006, repectively.
Facing Future (1993) debuted at #25 on Billboard Magazine's Top Pop Catalogue chart. Alone In IZ World, (2001) debuted at #1 on Billboard's World Chart and #135 on Billboard's Top 200, #13 on the Top Independent Albums Chart, and #15 on the Top Internet Album Sales chart .
Israel Kaanoi Kamakawiwo'ole was born on the island of Oahu at Kuakini Hospital to Henry Kaleialoha Naniwa and Evangeline Leinani Kamakawiwo'ole. He was raised in the community of Kaimuki on the outskirts of Waikiki where his parents met and married. He began playing music with his older brother Skippy at the age of 11, being privy to the music of the great Hawaiian entertainers of the time such as the likes of Peter Moon, Palani Vaughn, and Don Ho, who frequented the establishment where Iz's parents worked.
In his early teens, his family moved to Makaha. There, he met Louis "Moon" Kauakahi, Sam Gray and Jerome Koko. Together with his brother Skippy they formed the Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau. From 1976 throughout the 1980s, the Hawaiian contemporary band gained in popularity as they toured Hawaii and the continental United States and released 10 successful albums.
In 1982 Iz's brother Skippy Kamakawiwo'ole died of a heart attack. In that same year, Iz married his childhood sweetheart Marlene and soon after had a daughter who they named Ceslieanne "Wehi."
In 1990, Iz released his first solo album Ka'anoi which won him awards for Contemporary Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year from the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts (HARA). Facing Future was released in 1993. Considered his "best" album by many, it featured his most popular song, the medley "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World", along with "Hawaii 78," "White Sandy Beach of Hawaii," "Maui Hawaiian Sup'pa Man," and "Kaulana Kawaihae".
In 1994 Iz was voted favourite entertainer of the year by HARA.
'E Ala 'E (1995) featured the political title song "'E Ala 'E" and "Kaleohano," and In Dis Life (1996) featured "In This Life" and "Starting All Over Again."
As his career progressed, Iz was known for promoting Hawaiian rights and Hawaiian independence, both through his music (whose lyrics often stated the case for independence directly) and through his life.
In 1997, Iz was again honoured by the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts at the Annual Na Hoku Hanohano awards for Male Vocalist of the Year, Favourite Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year, and Island Contemporary Album of the Year. He watched the awards ceremony from a hospital room.
Throughout the latter part of his life, Iz was morbidly obese and at one point carried over 750 pounds (340 kg) on his 6'2" frame. He endured several hospitalizations and died of weight-related respiratory illness on June 26, 1997 at 12:18 a.m. at the age of 38. The Hawaii State Flag flew at half-mast throughout the day. Iz lay in state at the Capitol building in Honolulu, where over 10,000 came to pay respects over the course of the first day. His ashes were scattered into the ocean at Makua Beach.
Iz was nicknamed "The Gentle Giant" by his many admirers. He was described as always cheerful and positive, and was best known for his love of the land and of the people of Hawaii.
What a great voice and what a great person!