Not too many people would have heard the name “Israel Ka’ano’I Kamakawiwo’ole”, the native Hawaiian musician and Hawaiian sovereignty activist. His name translates in English to “The Feared Eyes” but he was better known in his homeland as Brother IZ. This gentle giant had the most beautiful voice for a man his size. Standing at 6 feet 2 inches, and at one point weighing an incredible 757 pounds this man-mountain was a force to be reckoned with. He became popular outside of his native Hawaii with the release of his 1993 album “Facing Future”. The record features his version of “Somewhere over the rainbow” and “What a wonderful world” two songs that this incredible talent made his own.
Throughout his life IZ was plagued with obesity problems, and this would eventually take the life of this Hawaiian hero at just 38-years-of-age. Such was his popularity that on the day of his funeral, the Hawaiian state flag was flown at half-mast as a sign of respect to him and his family. After his death he lay-in-state in his koa wood coffin at the state capitol building, only the third person in Hawaiian history to have this honor bestowed on them.
Nearly ten-thousand people attended his funeral, and thousands gathered in the ocean at Mākua Beach, where his ashes were scattered. It was reported that many more people on the shore honored him by sounding their horns all over Hawaii that day. On the 20th of September 2003, six years after his death, a bronze statue of the singer was unveiled at the “Waianae Neighborhood Community Center on Oʻahu”. Iz’s widow Marlene Kamakawiwoʻole, and sculptor Jan-Michelle Sawyer attended the ceremony, a dedication to a true Hawaiian hero.
In the clip below Kamakawiwoʻole performs Somewhere Over The Rainbow. His version of the classic Hollywood musical piece first came to prominence in 1999 when it was used in a television commercial for eToys.com. It was also featured in several movies including K-Pax, Meet Joe Black, Finding Forrester and many more. It has also made appearances in TV series such as ER, Scrubs, Cold Case and Glee. The record made it to number 12 on “Billboards Hot Digital Tracks” chart in January 2011. As of October 2014 it had sold over 4.2 Million digital copies. The film clip that incorporates vision of Kamakawiwoʻole singing and playing ukulele as well as vision from his ashes ceremony has had over 450-million-views on YouTube alone.
Click on the link below, sit back and enjoy a truly remarkable talent and a state hero to many Hawaiians that treated him with the respect of royalty. A larger-than-life character Kamakawiwoʻole was taken from us long before his true potential had been reached, a sad lost to the entire music world.