Kamakawiwo?ole in 1993
|Israel Ka?ano?i Kamakawiwo?ole|
|Born||May 20, 1959|
Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii
|Origin||Hawaii, United States|
|Died||June 26, 1997 (aged 38)|
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
|Labels||Mountain Apple Company|
Israel Ka?ano?i Kamakawiwo?ole (Hawaiian pronunciation: [km?kvivo'?ole], translation: "The Fearless Eyed Man") (May 20, 1959 - June 26, 1997), also called Braddah Iz or IZ, was a Native Hawaiian singer-songwriter, musician, 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 released on his albums Ka ?Ano?i and Facing Future. It was subsequently featured in several films, television programs, and television commercials.
Kamakawiwo?ole was born at Kuakini Medical Center in Honolulu to Henry "Hank" Kaleialoha Naniwa Kamakawiwo?ole, Jr. and Evangeline "Angie" Leinani Kamakawiwo?ole. 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 Kamakawiwo?ole'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. 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 M?kaha. There he met Louis Kauakahi, Sam Gray and Jerome Koko. Together with his brother Skippy they formed the Makaha Sons of Ni?ihau. 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.
The Makaha Sons of Ni?ihau recorded No Kristo in 1976 and released four more albums, including Kahea O Keale, Keala, Makaha Sons of Ni?ihau and Mahalo Ke Akua. In 1982, Kamakawiwo?ole's brother, Skippy, died at age 28 of a heart attack related to obesity. In that same year, Kamakawiwo?ole 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 Ho?ola. Kamakawiwo?ole's last recorded album with the group was 1991's Ho?oluana. It remains the group's top-selling CD.
In 1990, Kamakawiwo?ole released his first solo album Ka ?Ano?i, which won awards for Contemporary Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year from the Hawai?i Academy of Recording Arts (HARA). Facing Future was released in 1993 by The Mountain Apple Company. It featured a version of his most popular song, the medley "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" (listed as "Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World"), along with "Hawai?i 78", "White Sandy Beach of Hawai?i", "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 Kamakawiwo?ole.Facing Future debuted at #25 on Billboard magazine's Top Pop Catalogue chart. On October 26, 2005, Facing Future became Hawai?i'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. 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, Kamakawiwo?ole was voted favorite entertainer of the year by the Hawai?i Academy of Recording Arts (HARA).
In 1997, Kamakawiwo?ole was again honored by HARA at the Annual N? H?k? 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.
Kamakawiwo?ole was known for promoting Hawaiian rights and Hawaiian independence, both through his lyrics, which often stated the case for independence directly, and his life. 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 ina) is to care for the Hawaiian culture", is a statement that many consider to summarize his Hawaiian ideals. 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 ina 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").
Kamakawiwo?ole used the tenor ukulele, and his music as a whole, to promote awareness of his belief that a second-class status had been pushed onto the natives by the tourist industry.
At some point in his later years, Israel (Iz) converted to Christianity. In 1996, he was baptized at the Word of Life Christian Center in Honolulu and spoke publicly about his beliefs at the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards. He also recorded the song "Ke Alo O Iesu" (translated as "The Presence of Jesus").
Throughout his life, Kamakawiwo?ole was profoundly obese and at one point he weighed 757 pounds (343 kg; 54 st 1 lb) standing at 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) tall (body mass index = 97.2). He endured several hospitalizations because of health problems. 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. Kamakawiwo?ole was survived by his wife, Marlene Kamakawiwo?ole, and their daughter, Ceslie-Ann "Wehi".
The Hawaii state flag flew at half-staff on July 10, 1997, the day of Kamakawiwo?ole'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 M?kua Beach on July 12, 1997. 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 Kamakawiwo?ole's ashes were featured in official music videos of "Over the Rainbow" released posthumously by Mountain Apple Company. As of January 2019 , the two videos as featured on YouTube have collectively received over 740 million views.
On September 20, 2003, hundreds paid tribute to Kamakawiwo?ole as a bronze bust (located at ) of the revered singer was unveiled at the Waianae Neighborhood Community Center on O?ahu. The singer's widow, Marlene Kamakawiwo?ole, and sculptor Jan-Michelle Sawyer were present for the dedication ceremony.
A 2014 Pixar short film, Lava, features two volcanoes as the main characters. Israel Kamakawiwo?ole's cover of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and his style of music was James Ford Murphy's partial inspiration for the short film.
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Kamakawiwo?ole's recording of "Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" gained notice in 1999 when an excerpt was used in the TV commercials for eToys.com (now part of Toys "R" Us). 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. 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.
Israel called the recording studio at 3 am. He was given 15 minutes to arrive by Milan Bertosa. Bertosa said, "And in walks the largest human being I had seen in my life. Israel was probably like 500 pounds. And the first thing at hand is to find something for him to sit on." A security guard gave Israel a large steel chair. "Then I put up some microphones, do a quick sound check, roll tape, and the first thing he does is 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow.' He played and sang, one take, and it was over."
"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. And as of October 2014, the song has sold over 4.2 million digital copies. 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.
On July 8, 2007, Kamakawiwo?ole debuted at No. 44 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart with "Wonderful World," selling 17,000 units.
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 and on a TV advertisement - for Axe deodorant (which is itself a revival of the advertisement originally aired in 2004) - it hit #1 on the German singles chart, was the number one seller single of 2010 and was eventually certified 2× Platinum in 2011.
On October 24, 2016 The Healer premiered at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, which featured "Over the Rainbow".
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. It also peaked at No.1 in France and Switzerland in late December 2010.