It was the middle of the night when Israel Kamakawiwo'ole shuffled through the door of a Honolulu recording studio on Kalakaua Avenue, a man the size of three carrying an 'ukulele that looked like a toy....
He begged the sound engineer to work with him, cajoled the man into saying yes. Twenty minutes later, the massive musician went home, unaware that the playful medley he just recorded — "Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" — would stand as a milestone in the history of Hawaiian music.
"Literally, Iz was a house carrying an 'ukulele," Bertosa said of the musician's size at the time - perhaps at the 450-pound level. "We had these floating floors, separated from the mainboard, and I felt the floors move when he walked." Bertosa summoned security to fetch a steel chair so Kamakawiwo'ole could sit.Israel "Brudda Iz" Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole (1959-1997) was a Hawaiian folk musician, singer, songwriter and nephew of entertainer Moe Kaele. His music was a uniquely gentle fusion of Hawai'ian folk, jazz and reggae combined with his sweet tenor voice and signature instrument, the Hawai'ian ukulele. His 1993 album Facing Future was the first to go platinum by a Hawai'ian musician. Mr. Kamakawiwo'ole's music is distributed by the Mountain Apple Company, and his Official Site (autoplays music) contains lots of little treasures for his fans, including a never-before-heard audio clip of the "Wonderful World Overture" which was released on his birthday this year.
"When he started singing, I said to myself, 'Oh, this is what I'm supposed to be doing for a living.' He did 'Over the Rainbow' and 'What a Wonderful World' in one take and 'White Sandy Beach.' Then a cowboy song, which was incomplete and so was never released. Then it was over, in 15, 20 minutes."
"Today, Facing Future remains the top selling Hawaiian music album in the world. In 2002 it was certified gold by the RIAA, a first for a Hawaiian Record label. In 2005, the album was certified platinum by the RIAA for sales of over 1 million units."These days, we'd say that Kamakawiwo'ole's version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" went viral, soon after its release. Most recently, it was used last night on Glee (on June 8, 2010) and is also performed by members of the cast in their live performances. It was used on "ER" (during the scene when Dr. Greene dies,) and in the movies 50 First Dates (that's the final scene of the movie before the credits roll, so it contains spoilers,) "Meet Joe Black" and "Finding Forrester." (Here's a Shorter, Higher Quality clip from 50 First Dates.) It has also been covered by American Idol contestant Jason Castro on the show as well as used in a wide range of commercials including the Lotto in Norway, and Lynx 24/7 Deodorant / Body Spray. A comprehensive list with many videos can be seen here. I highly recommend going to Florida on the map and watching the Rice Krispies commercial. Also, check out California for additional movie clips.
"Indeed, “Facing Future” has remained on the World Chart for an astonishing 493 weeks with “Alone In IZ World” staying there for 300 weeks (all in the top 5), each with no hint of faltering. To this day, IZ’s music is still on Billboard’s charts, Facing Future is bearing down on 700 weeks in the top 10 of the World Chart, Alone In IZ World has been on the chart for 423 weeks and Wonderful World enjoys 150 weeks on the chart (at the end of 2009)."
"Others practice; Iz always sang what he remembered. The problem was he remembered wrong; but that's the innocence and beauty of him; it all comes from the heart."57 pages of the book Iz: Voice of the People By Rick Carroll and Israel's widow, Marlene Ku'upua Kamakawiwo'ole, can be seen through Google. The book can be purchased on Amazon.
They stood for hours in their slippers in a shoulder-locked crowd for a pass-by glimpse of the body of the gentle giant in a koa casket beneath a 50-foot Hawaiian flag.
They lingered for the free concert of island stars singing their salutes to singer, musician and composer Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, who died June 26 at age 38.
They went silent when amplifiers carried the voice of "Brudda Iz" from a radio interview, but became a dull roar of underlying conversation when a minister's preaching went on and on.
They came for the spectacle and drama. By their sheer numbers and their demeanor, they were the spectacle and drama.
Police and Capitol guards said the predicted crowd of 10,000 came true as people of all ages, Hawaiians and their friends of all ethnic groups, paid tribute to the entertainer whom they felt they knew and whose songs played in their hearts.
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