Further proof that I’m out of touch with what’s truly important: I’d never heard of Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole until I received an email containing links to four different version’s of “Over the Rainbow,” including this beautiful one by “Iz.”
Here’s the video:
Such an amazing voice! The singer died in 1997 but his music remains immensely popular in Hawaii. Here are excerpts from an obituary that ran in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
Kamakawiwo‘ole, the singer and musician who was known as “Iz” and who drew the respect of music lovers and the Hawaiian community, died at 12:18 a.m. today at Queen’s Medical Center. The 38-year-old performer had had problems with his weight and related illnesses and had been under care at the hospital for respiratory ailments.
This year Kamakawiwo‘ole and his CD “n Dis Life” won three awards during the Na Hoku Hanohano presentation. The entertainer watched the June 5 ceremonies from his bed at Queen’s, where he was being treated.
He won honors for album of the year, island contemporary album of the year and male vocalist of the year. He also was named favorite entertainer of the year by popular vote.
Kamakawiwo‘ole sang with the Makaha Sons of Niihau before setting out on his own in 1993.
He had traveled many roads — singing, composing, instrumentalizing, producing albums and winning other Na Hoku Hanohano awards. In 1994 he was chosen entertainer of the year.
In May 1996 after a show-stopping reunion performance with his three partners from the Makaha Sons — John Koko, Jerome Koko and Moon Kauakahi — Iz said, “I’ve seen it all, done it all, known it all.”
That was a reference to drugs, a habit that he said he had since kicked.
“It ruins you. It’s not Hawaiian. It’s not about malama-ing (taking care of) those you love,” he told the Star-Bulletin in a May 17, 1996, interview.
His plans then called for a stronger weight-control program: less salt, no fat, lots of water, walking, swimming and other exercises.
The Waianae High School dropout planned to get a tutor to earn his GED.
Throughout his career, Iz also had a weight problem that plagued his 6-foot-2-inch frame. At one time he tipped the scales at 757 pounds, and vowed in 1995 to shed 360 pounds. At one point during his career, he required a forklift to get on stage. Even walking was a chore, and he had to rely on an auxiliary oxygen tank to help him breathe.
Here’s a hope and a prayer: that “Iz” found that place somewhere over the rainbow, which he’d heard about once in a lullaby.