For those who read last week article about the Vaka Moana’s you might recall my reference to the Hawaiian musician “IZ”. Today’s article is about the man. Please start here with this link and then come back (my aplolgies for any 15 second lead-in commercials on these video links). E Ku, u Morning Dew http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQrs7nPAKS4&feature=related
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole was a brilliant Hawaiian musician who left this earth as a legend after 37 brief years. Affectionately known as “Bruddah IZ” by native Hawaiians and Hawaiians-at-heart, he was a man compassionate about what it was to be Hawaiian, a man who loved Hawaii’s people, its land and its heritage. He had a simple message of “doing good and being kind” and spoke of being Hawaiian and “getting ahead without stepping on
other peoples toes.” He was a staunch advocate for Hawaiian independence, Hawaiian cultural and environmental issues. His music often spoke of each. He was a loving man, a gentle man embracing family, his land and ancestors, his love of life and personal beliefs…all through his gentle ukulele playing and his hauntingly beautiful voice. His message to love one another, to respect all cultures, the lands and the seas, to live righteously and not given into drugs, crime and temptations, to take responsibility, was spoken from the heart, from experience and self-mistakes, and from the face of reality. Similar to his older brother who died suddenly from a heart attack in 1982 at the age of 28, “Bruddah Iz” died too of respiratory failure in 1997, survived by his childhood sweetheart and wife Marlene and his 14 year old daughter Ceslie-Ann “Wehi.” He was 6ft-2in. and weighed over 700 pounds. Link to “White Sandy Beach” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoRpWEE-E0Q&feature=relate
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole was born May 20, 1959 to Henry Kaleialoha Naniwa Kamakawiwo’ole, Jr., and Evangeline Leinani Kamakawiwo’ole on the island of Oahu, Hawaii and had an older sister Lydia and older brother Skippy. He started playing music
at age 11 with his brother and was fortunate to meet several great Hawaiian entertainers of the time including Peter Moon and Don Ho. A few years later he and his brother met Louis “Moon” Kauakahi, Sam Gray and Jerome Koko and they formed the band “The Makaha Sons of Ni’hau.” From 1976 through the 1980’s they gained in popularity as they toured the islands and continental United States, releasing 15 successful albums and becoming Hawaii’s most popular traditional music group.
In 1990 IZ released his first solo album, Ka’Ano’i which garnered awards for Contemporary Album and Male Vocalist of the Year from the Hawaii Academy of Recording Artists, and then burst onto the world music scene in 1993 with his album Facing Future and his medley “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World.” The album skyrocketed to number one on the Billboard World Music Charts and solidified “Bruddah IZ’s” fame as a bona fide star. His medley has been the ending of several movies including Finding Forrester, Meet Joe Black, 50 First Dates and Fred Claus. It has been part of the TV show Scrubs, the 2002 season finale of the TV series ER, and the end of the season finale of Young Americans. It was in the very last episode in April 2007 of the UK drama series Life on Mars, and is now the introduction to the BBC series South Pacific. The Hawaiian music promoter Tom Moffatt once said of IZ, “His whole life was music and love for the people of Hawaii.”
The message IZ spoke of to his young followers was spoken from experience, whether in concert halls and community parks and picnics. IZ was a high school dropout and struggle with drug addition for a time. Yet he was fortunate to find his way past his demons and struggles and with his love of music spread his word and his beliefs to all Hawaiians, young and old, and to the world beyond. He battled morbid obesity for most of his adult life, a battle that may have given him an insight to his fate and the value of life on this earth. It is an insight and a message that has been heard by many. Link to Lover of Mine http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PygoDoK6MK8&feature=related
IZ endured several hospitalizations because of the problems caused by his weight, and beset with respiratory and other medical problems died in the Queen’s Medical Center, Honolulu, Hawaii on June 26, 1997. The Hawai’i State Flag flew at half-staff on July 10th, the day of his funeral where his koa wood coffin lay in state at the 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 10,000 people attended his funeral and thousand s gathered as his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean a Makua Beach on July 12th.
Bruddah IZ…his message lives on. Link to Somewhere Over the Rainbow http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1bFr2SWP1I&feature=relate
Aloha…and G’Day friends, see you next Friday morning.
Additional songs by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole…IZ:
Ahi Wela – Twinkle Twinkle Little Star http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gs58AYgIJlc&feature=related
Wings Beneath My Wings http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPJeD6DvQ94&feature=related