Monday, June 26, 2017

JUNE 26: 20 years since Hawaiian legend Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwoʻole

TODAY is the 20th anniversary of the death of Hawaiian singer Israel 'IZ' Kamakawiwo'ole.

The sweet-signing crooner was popular throughout the world but in Hawaii, he was a legend. The State of Hawai’i came together and honored IZ when he died in 1997. The Hawaiʻi State Flag flew at half-staff on July 10, 1997, the day of Kamakawiwoʻole’s funeral. His koa wood coffin lay in state at the Capitol building in Honolulu. He was the third person in Hawaiian history to be accorded 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 Mākua Beach on July 12, 1997.

His most famous performance was his hit of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," was a simple song - just IZ and a ukelele - that had an emotional wallop. The video accompaniyng this post includes scenes from his funeral.

In May 2002, producer John Wells selected IZ’s music for the top-rated television show ER. Wells placed it in the season finale that was viewed by 50 million people. Following the exposure of his music in “ER,” IZ was featured in People Magazine and Parade Magazine.

Again, more exposure brought more loyal and passionate fans. The result – even further exposure when the music was used in the hit film 50 First Dates starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The music served to highlight the final emotional scene, drawing raves from viewers.

Bruddah Iz died of respiratory failure at the age of 39. His spirit lives on in Hawaii's  mountains, beaches, waters and forests. When the gentle trade winds dance through the palms, you can still hear his singing.