In Memory of Iz – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Today I would like to honor the memory of singer Israel Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’ole, better known as Iz, one of the most beautiful voices of all time. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii on May 20, 1959,  he died on June 26, 1997.
If you’re not familiar with him, you’ve been missing out. He often blended jazz and reggae in his ukelele songs, creating his own unique style, but it’s his amazing voice that transforms his music into magic for people of all ages. Chances are you’ve heard him without knowing who the artist was. 
His medley of “Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World” was featured as a sound track in the movies Meet Joe Black, Finding Forrester, 50 First Dates, Fred Clause, Madagascar, Glee, in addition to many TV shows and commercials. 
According to music blog Chart Watch “Gone but Not Forgotten” post for the Week Ending October 2, 2011, by Paul Grein, “The best-selling digital hit by an artist who is no longer with us is Israel Kamakawiwo’ole‘s ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’/’What A Wonderful World,’ which this week tops the 3 million mark in digital sales.”
That means that as of October 2011, Iz’s digital hit surpassed:
  • Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which had sold 2,796,000 
  • Freddie Mercury’s (Queen) “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which had sold 2,609,000
  • Ronnie Van Zant’s (Lynyrd Skynyrd) “Sweet Home Alabama,” which had sold 2,498,000
It’s interesting to note that the two songs in Iz’s hit medley are old songs. “Over the Rainbow” was a hit sung by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz in 1939 (Click here to see the video). Louis Armstrong’s hit “What a Wonderful World” came out in 1967 (click here to see the video).
Here’s a YouTube video featuring Iz singing his medley
Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World
This is worth taking a few moments to listen to, 
especially if your soul needs a little soothing. 
At the end of both videos there’s footage of the sprinkling of Iz’s ashes at Makua Beach
where thousands of fans gathered on the shore, in the water, on boats, 
in canoes, and on surf boards to bid Aloha to “Brudda Iz.”
This Official video of Over the Rainbow
has had over 70 million views on YouTube.
Iz struggled with obesity all his life, weighing 757 pounds at one point. He stood 6′ 2″ tall. Respiratory problems and other medical complications led to his early death at age 38. He’s survived by wife, Marlene, and daughter Ceslie-Ann “Wihi.”
The Hawaiian state flag flew at half staff the day of Iz’s funeral July 10, 1997. His body lay in state in Honolulu at the capitol building, the third person in Hawaiian history to receive this rare honor. He’s the only one who wasn’t a government official. 
For more information about Iz, you can visit The Official Site of Israel IZ Kamakawiwo’ole or Everything “IZ,” which has music, stories, and videos. 
Other Iz YouTube videos you might want to check out:
I would like to thank Iz for all the moments his “Over the Rainbow” song lifted my spirits and offered me more than any pot of gold ever could. And how awesome that his version of “What a Wonderful World” enriched so many lives and actually made our world even more wonderful. 

Is there a song that inspires you every time you hear it? If you’d like to leave a link to it in the comments, that would be great! 
Until inspiration returns, my friends, Aloha!
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11 Responses to In Memory of Iz – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

  1. This is one of my favorite songs. It gets me choked up every time I listen to it!

  2. Old Kitty says:

    Oh one of the bestest versions of this song! He totally makes it his own – and I love the official video to it too – it celebrates a wonderful creative life! Take carex

  3. debrakristi says:

    I have always loved this version. Absolutely beautiful. He had an amazing talent. I still remember the first time I heard it. <3 Thank you for sharing with us Lynn.

  4. TeresaR says:

    I'll watch these when I have high speed internet in town (as I was saying on WANATribe…LOL!). I love ukelele music! I learned when I was in grades 6 and 7, and I bought a new one for myself a number of years back. I have to relearn how to play it though.That's really sad he died so young. 🙁

  5. Susie Lindau says:

    My husband was just talking about how much he loves this song, but didn't know the singer. I will send him this link. I didn't realize he died! So sad that he died at such a young age…Fantastic tribute Lynn. Thanks so much for this!

  6. nutschell says:

    I do love his songs, especially somewhere over the rainbow. love the videos, Lynn. :)

  7. Virginia Bennett says:

    Iz had a voice that always comforted me

  8. Liana says:

    One of my many faves of Iz’s songs is “You Don’t Know Me”. I can listen and sing to it over and over.

  9. Lori Broomhall says:

    He’s a genuine wonderful person. I really appreciate Isreal , we need more people like him in this world. His voice is so unique, and he sings real good. God Bless his family , friends and everyone who loves him . The fans. The Lord Bless and RIP IZ. Love the songs.

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