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:
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.
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!