Israel Kamakawiwoʻole

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Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwoʻole
File:Israel Kamakawiwoʻole.jpg
Israel in 1993
Background information
Birth nameIsrael Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole
Born(1959-05-20)May 20, 1959
Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii
OriginHawaii, United States
DiedJune 26, 1997(1997-06-26) (aged 38)
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
Years active1976–1997
Associated actsMakaha Sons of Niʻihau
Notable instruments

Israel "Iz" Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole (Hawaiian pronunciation: [kəˌmɐkəˌvivoˈʔole]) translation: "The Fearless Eyed"; May 20, 1959 – June 26, 1997), also called Bruddah Iz (Brother Iz), was a Hawaiian musician, entertainer and Hawaiian sovereignty activist.

His voice became famous outside Hawaii when his album Facing Future was released in 1993. His medley of "Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" was subsequently featured in several films, television programs, and television commercials.

Along with his ukulele playing and incorporation of other genres, such as jazz and reggae, Kamakawiwoʻole remains influential on Hawaiian music.[2]

Early life[edit]

Kamakawiwoʻole was born at Kuakini Hospital in Honolulu to Henry "Hank" Kaleialoha Naniwa Kamakawiwoʻole, Jr. and Evangeline "Angie" Leinani Kamakawiwoʻole. The notable Hawaiian musician Moe Keale was his uncle and a major musical influence. He was raised in the community of Kaimuki, where his parents had met and married. He began playing music with his older brother Skippy and cousin Allen Thornton at the age of 11, being exposed to the music of Hawaiian entertainers of the time such as Peter Moon, Palani Vaughn and Don Ho, who frequented the establishment where Kamakawiwoʻole's parents worked. Hawaiian musician Del Beazley spoke of the first time he heard Israel perform, when, while playing for a graduation party, the whole room fell silent on hearing him sing.[3] Israel continued his path as his brother Skippy entered the Army in 1971 and cousin Allen parted ways in 1976 for the mainland.

In his early teens, he studied at Upward Bound (UB) of the University of Hawaii at Hilo and his family moved to Mākaha. There he met Louis "Moon" Kauakahi, Sam Gray and Jerome Koko.[4] Together with his brother Skippy they formed the Makaha Sons of Niʻihau. A part of the Hawaiian Renaissance, the band's blend of contemporary and traditional styles gained in popularity as they toured Hawaii and the continental United States, releasing fifteen successful albums. Kamakawiwo'ole's aim was to make music that stayed true to the typical sound of traditional Hawaiian music. During that time period, the songs that many people associated with Hawaii, typically, were not traditional-sounding songs.

Music career[edit]

The Makaha Sons of Niʻihau recorded No Kristo in 1976 and released four more albums, including Kahea O Keale, Keala, Makaha Sons of Niʻihau and Mahalo Ke Akua. In 1982, Kamakawiwoʻole's brother, Skippy, died at age 28 of a heart attack[5] related to obesity. In that same year, Kamakawiwoʻole married his childhood sweetheart Marlene. Soon after, they had a daughter whom they named Ceslieanne "Wehi" (born in c. 1983).

The group became Hawaii's most popular contemporary traditional group with breakout albums 1984's Puana Hou Me Ke Aloha and its follow-up, 1986's Hoʻola. Kamakawiwoʻole's last recorded album with the group was 1991's Hoʻoluana. It remains the group's top-selling CD.

In 1990, Kamakawiwoʻole released his first solo album Ka ʻAnoʻi, which won awards for Contemporary Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year from the Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts (HARA). Facing Future was released in 1993 by The Mountain Apple Company. It featured his most popular song, the medley "Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World", along with "Hawaiʻi 78", "White Sandy Beach of Hawaiʻi", "Maui Hawaiian Sup'pa Man", and "Kaulana Kawaihae". The decision to include a cover of Somewhere Over the Rainbow was said to be a last-minute decision by his producer Jon de Mello and him.[6] Facing Future debuted at #25 on Billboard magazine's Top Pop Catalogue chart. On October 26, 2005, Facing Future became Hawaii's first certified platinum album, selling more than a million CDs in the United States, according to figures furnished by the Recording Industry Association of America.[7] On July 21, 2006, BBC Radio 1 announced that "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World (True Dreams)" would be released as a single in America.

In 1994, Kamakawiwoʻole was voted favorite entertainer of the year by the Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts (HARA).

E Ala E (1995) featured the political title song "ʻE Ala ʻE" and "Kaleohano", and N Dis Life (1996) featured "In This Life" and "Starting All Over Again".

In 1997, Kamakawiwoʻole was again honored by HARA at the Annual Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards for Male Vocalist of the Year, Favorite Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year, and Island Contemporary Album of the Year. He watched the awards ceremony from a hospital room.

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 charts.

Kamakawiwo'ole's Facing Future has become the best-selling Hawaiian album of all time.[3]

Support of Hawaiian rights[edit]

Kamakawiwoʻole was known for promoting Hawaiian rights and Hawaiian independence, both through his lyrics, which often stated the case for independence directly, and his life.[8] For example, the lyric in his song "Hawai'i '78": "The life of this land is the life of the people/and that to care for the land (malama 'āina) is to care for the Hawaiian culture", is a statement that many consider to summarise his Hawaiian ideals.[9] The state motto of Hawai'i is a recurring line in the song and encompasses the meaning of Iz's message: "Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono" (proclaimed by King Kamehameha III when Hawai'i regained sovereignty in 1843. It can be roughly translated as: "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness").[10]

Kamakawiwo'ole used the soprano ukulele, and his music as a whole, to promote awareness of his belief of a second-class status pushed onto the natives by the tourist industry.[11]


Throughout his life, Kamakawiwoʻole was morbidly obese and at one point weighed 757 pounds (343 kg; 54 st 1 lb) standing 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) tall (body mass index = 97.2).[5] He endured several hospitalizations because of health problems caused by his weight.[5] Beset with respiratory, heart, and other medical problems, he died at the age of 38 in Queen's Medical Center at 12:18 a.m. on June 26, 1997.[5] Kamakawiwoʻole is survived by his wife, Marlene Kamakawiwoʻole, and their daughter, Ceslie-Ann "Wehi".[12]

The Hawaii state flag flew at half-staff on July 10, 1997, the day of Kamakawiwoʻole's funeral. His koa wood coffin lay in state at the state capitol building in Honolulu. He was the third person in Hawaiian history to be awarded this honor, and the only one who was not a government official. Approximately ten thousand people attended the funeral. Thousands of fans gathered as his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean at Mākua Beach on July 12, 1997.[12] According to witnesses, many people on land commemorated him by honking their car and truck horns on all Hawaiian highways that day. Scenes from the funeral and scattering of Kamakawiwoʻole's ashes were featured in official music videos of "Over the Rainbow" released posthumously by Mountain Apple Company. As of January 2017, the two videos as featured on YouTube have collectively received over 300 million views.[13][14]

On September 20, 2003, hundreds paid tribute to Kamakawiwoʻole as a bronze bust of the revered singer was unveiled at the Waianae Neighborhood Community Center on Oʻahu. The singer's widow, Marlene Kamakawiwoʻole, and sculptor Jan-Michelle Sawyer were present for the dedication ceremony.[15]


On December 6, 2010, NPR named Kamakawiwoʻole as "The Voice of Hawaii" in its 50 great voices series.[1]

On March 24, 2011, Kamakawiwoʻole was honored with the German national music award Echo. The music managers Wolfgang Boss and Jon de Mello accepted the trophy in his stead.[16]

A 2014 Pixar short film, Lava, features as main characters two volcanoes who are based on Israel Kamakawiwoʻole and his wife, and the style of music used in the short is reminiscent of his cover of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."[17]

What a Wonderful World[edit]

Kamakawiwoʻole's recording of "Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" gained notice in 1999 when an excerpt was used in the TV commercials for The full song was featured in the movies K-Pax, Meet Joe Black, Finding Forrester, Son of the Mask, 50 First Dates, Fred Claus and IMAX: Hubble 3D.[18] It was also featured in TV series ER, American Dad!, Scrubs, Cold Case, Glee, South Pacific, LOST, Storm Chasers, and in the UK original version of Life on Mars among others.[19]

"Over the Rainbow//What a Wonderful World" reached #12 on Billboard's Hot Digital Tracks chart the week of January 31, 2004 (for the survey week ending January 18, 2004). It passed the 2 million paid downloads mark in the USA by September 27, 2009, and then sold 3 million in the USA as of October 2, 2011.[20] And as of October 2014, the song has sold over 4.2 million digital copies.[21] In addition, the song holds the distinction of being the longest-leading number one hit on any of the Billboard song charts, having spent 185 weeks at number one on the publication's World Digital Songs chart.[21]

On July 4, 2007, Kamakawiwoʻole debuted at No. 44 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart with "Wonderful World," selling 17,000 units.[22]

In April 2007, "Over the Rainbow" entered the UK charts at #68, and eventually climbed to #46, spending 10 weeks in the Top 100 over a 2-year period.

In October 2010, following its use in a trailer for the TV channel VOX[23] and on a TV advertisement – for Axe deodorant (which is itself a revival of the advertisement originally aired in 2004)[24] – it hit #1 on the German singles chart, was the number one seller single of 2010[25] and was eventually certified 2× Platinum in 2011.[26]

At the world premiere of The Healer ( at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis (October 24, 2016) "Over the Rainbow" was again featured.

As of November 1, 2010, "Over the Rainbow" peaked at No. 6 on the OE3 Austria charts, which largely reflect airplay on Austria's government-operated Top 40 radio network.[27] It also peaked at No.1 in France and Switzerland in late December 2010.

His rendition of "Over the Rainbow" is often used as bumper music on the overnight radio show Coast to Coast AM.



Studio albums[edit]

Compilation albums[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Kamakawiwo, Israel (December 6, 2010). "Israel Kamakawiwo'ole: The Voice Of Hawaii". NPR. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
  2. Gordon, Mike; Beverly Creamer; Wayne Harada. "The Legacy: A Voice Of Hawaiʻi and Hawaiians". The Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved August 19, 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Montagne, Renee (December 6, 2010). "Israel Kamakawiwo'ole: The Voice of Hawaii". Retrieved October 10, 2012.
  4. "Article by Jay Hartwell of the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa". May 26, 1991. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Kekoa Enomoto, Catherine; Gregg K. Kakesako (June 26, 1997). "'IZ' Will Always Be". Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
  6. closed access publication – behind paywall Guerin, Ada (June 6, 2006). "Chasing Rainbows". The Hollywood Reporter – International Edition. Los Angeles, CA, USA: Prometheus Global Media. 394 (32): M419. ISSN 0018-3660. Retrieved October 10, 2012. (subscription required)
  7. "Brudda Iz's Facing Future goes platinum, a first for Hawaii". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. October 6, 2005.
  8. Carroll, Rick. Iz: Voice of the People. Honolulu, Hawai'i: Bess, 2006. Print.
  9. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. "Hawai'i '78." Facing Future. Mountain Apple Company, 1993. MP3.
  10. "Hawaii State Motto Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I Ka Pono The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness". Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  11. Tranquada, Jim (2012). The Ukulele: a History. University of Hawaii Press. p. 166. ISBN 978-0-8248-3544-6.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Adamski, Mary (July 10, 1997). "Isles Bid Aloha, not Goodbye, to 'Brudda Iz'". Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
  13. "OFFICIAL Somewhere over the Rainbow – Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwoʻole". Mountain Apple Company Inc. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  14. "OFFICIAL – Somewhere Over the Rainbow 2011 – Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole". Mountain Apple Company Inc. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  15. "Sculpture's Debut Honors 'Braddah IZ'". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. September 21, 2003.
  16. Starauflauf bei der Echo-Verleihung in Berlin Badische Zeitung, March 25, 2011
  17. "5 questions with Disney/Pixar's 'LAVA' director James Ford Murphy". KHON2. November 4, 2014. Retrieved September 28, 2016.
  18. "IMAX: Hubble 3D – Toronto Screen Shots". March 18, 2010. Retrieved May 2, 2011.
  19. Kim Grant; Glenda Bendure; Michael Clark; Ned Friary; Conner Gorry; Luci Yamamoto (2005). Lonely Planet Hawaii (7th ed.). Lonely Planet Publications. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-74059-871-2.
  20. Week Ending Oct. 2, 2011. Songs: Gone But Not Forgotten
  21. 21.0 21.1 Trust, Gary (October 21, 2014). "Ask Billboard: The Weird Connections Between Mary Lambert & Madonna". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved October 21, 2014.
  22. Artist Chart History – Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, Billboard
  23. Herr der Goldtruhen NZZ Folio vom 7. Oktober 2010.
  24. "Lynx – Getting Dressed Commercial Song Israel Kamakawiwo'ole – Somewhere Over the Rainbow". YouTube. November 24, 2010. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
  25. "Musik-Jahrescharts: 'Sanfter Riese' und der Graf setzen sich durch – media control". (in Deutsch). January 6, 2011. Archived from the original on January 7, 2011. Retrieved January 23, 2014. {{cite web}}: Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help); Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (|trans-title= suggested) (help)
  26. "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole; 'Over the Rainbow')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  27. " / woche 42/2010". Retrieved January 24, 2011.


External links[edit]