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I hear babies cry and I watch them grow. They'll learn much more than we'll know. And I think to myself: What a Wonderful World
June 8, 2010 11:26 PM   Subscribe

You may not know who Israel "Brudda Iz" Kamakawiwoʻole was, but you're probably familiar with his medley of "Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World," which has been included on several movie soundtracks and used on television shows & commercials throughout the world....

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.

"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."
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.
"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."

"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)."
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.

Must see: The Honolulu Advertiser's incredible "Wonderful World" project, dedicated to him, which has videos, a ukulele lesson (!), stories, the lyrics for his Rainbow medley, a biography, timeline and other interactive presentations, as well as an essay about his "accidental activism." Plus, "A late night for recording 'Rainbow'":
"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.

"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."

Wikipedia: "Throughout the later part of his life, Kamakawiwoʻole suffered from severe obesity and at one point carried 770 pounds (350 kg) (55 stone) on his 6-foot 2-inch (1.88 m) frame. He endured several hospitalizations and died of weight-related respiratory illness at Queens Medical Center on June 26, 1997, at 12:18 a.m. He was 38 years old. He is survived by his wife Marlene Kamakawiwo'ole and his daughter Ceslieanne "Wehi"."

"Death did not silence his music"

Hawaii, he sang of thee -- and people listened.

Obituaries from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin: Ten thousand pay last respects to the legendary entertainer whose music will live on.
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.


Obituary from NBC Channel 8, Hawaii

Video interview with his widow, Marlene Kamakawiwo'ole: "How to love unconditionally"

Slideshow of Israel's family photos set to White Sandy Beach. Created by Mountain Apple Company in honor of what would have been his 50th birthday, on May 20, 2009.


The Music
* Official Video: Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What A Wonderful World
* Official Video II: Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What A Wonderful World
* E Ala E ("We the voices behind the face, of the Hawaiian nation, the Hawaiian nation. Rise for Justice, the day has come for all our people, to stand as one!")
* Ka Pua U'i
* Hawai'i '78 ("No matter what color are you: yellow, black, pink, orange, purple, maroon. Only race, bro: the human.")
* Maui Hawaiian Sup'pa Man
* Henehene Kou'Aka
* White Sandy Beach
* Hawai'i Aloha
* Kaleohano
* Star of Gladness

Audio Only
The album Facing Future:
01 * Hawai'i 78 / Introduction
02 * Ka Huila Wai
03 * 'Ama'ama
04 * Panini Pua Kea
05 * Take Me Home Country Road
06 * Kuhio Bay
07 * Ka Pui U'i
08 * White Sandy Beach of Hawai'i
09 * Henehene Kou'Aka
10 * La 'Elima
11 * Pili Me Ka'u Manu
12 * Mau'i Hawaiian Sup'pa Man
13 * Kaulana Kawaihae
14 * Somewhere Over The Rainbow / What A Wonderful World
15 * Hawai'i '78

Also:
* Somewhere Over The Rainbow / What A Wonderful World (commercial version, with lyrics)
* Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star / Ahi Wela
* In This Life
* Panini Pua Kea
* "Ka Na'i Aupuni
* "I'll Be There/Warren's Song
* Starting All Over Again

And finally...
* Lover of Mine
posted by zarq (72 comments total) 178 users marked this as a favorite

 
For IZ:

.
posted by zarq at 11:26 PM on June 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


One last thing...

If you liked IZ's version, you might also like Eva Cassidy's take on Somewhere Over The Rainbow. They died within months of each other -- Eva was 33 when she died of melanoma.
posted by zarq at 11:27 PM on June 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Big post for a big man. Just spent some time on Kauai and couldn't really get away from him, in a good way. Hawaii 78 in particular (link above also) is nigh on impossible to ignore.
posted by philip-random at 11:32 PM on June 8, 2010


Best. FPP. Ever.

Thank you.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:34 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I get goosebumps and shivers just reading about IZ and this song. If I actually listen to it right now I'll probably burst into tears.
posted by loquacious at 11:36 PM on June 8, 2010


Nicely done.
posted by anitanita at 11:37 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I actually listen to it right now I'll probably burst into tears.

I shed quite a few making this post.

The clip of Dr. Greene's death on ER did me in. I watched the character's slow slide throughout that season and never watched the show again after the episode with his funeral. It reminded me far, far too vividly of my father's battle with MS.
posted by zarq at 11:39 PM on June 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Jesus, zarq. Thank you.
posted by rtha at 11:45 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


A few years ago on a hawaiian vacation before that cover song of his really broke big, he was everywhere in Hawaii. Everyone talked about him and we'd see video of him playing concerts in all kinds of shops. His music was the background to the entire trip because it was the soundtrack playing at every restaurant, shop, and gas station we stopped at over the course of a week. I remember having to wikipedia search him and read about his entire life after a couple days of constant reminders of Iz.

I'm kind of bummed he didn't get to see and enjoy how big his music has gotten since his passing quite some time ago.
posted by mathowie at 11:46 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


This post (and others like it, although this sets the bar high) is why I'm never going to voluntarily leave Metafilter.

Amazing post for an amazing man.
posted by yiftach at 11:55 PM on June 8, 2010


Holy shit. I've heard the "Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World" song (at this point who hasn't, right?) but I had no idea. No. Fucking. Idea.

This is a wonderful post and you are a wonderful person for making it.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 12:02 AM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh thanks, zarq, yet another massive post about Israel is just what we needed.
posted by orthogonality at 12:03 AM on June 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


Iz's `Ulili E -

Ulili ë (ahahana `ulili ehehene `ulili ahahana)
`Ulili ho`i (ehehene `ulili ahahana `ulili ehehene)
`Ulili holoholo kahakai ë
O ia kai ua lana mälie

The sandpiper
The sandpiper returns
Sandpiper runs along the beach
Where the sea is peaceful and calm

Hone ana ko leo e `ulili ë
O kahi manu noho `ae kai
Kia`i ma ka lae a`o kekaha
`O ia kai ua lana mälie

The voice of the sandpiper is soft and sweet
Little bird who lives by the sea
Ever watchful on the beaches
Where the sea is calm

Hone ana ko leo kölea ë
Pehea `o Kahiki? Maika`i nö
`O ia `äina `uluwehiwehi
I hui pü `ia me ke onaona

The voice of the 'ulili is soft and sweet
How are you, stranger? Very well
You grace our land
Where the sea is always calm
posted by Surfurrus at 12:26 AM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


zarq. you outdid yourself here. All wonderful. My dad is going to love this stuff, thanks! Being raised in an Indonesian family in Holland our house was filled with krontjong, the Indonesian take on Hawaii style music. Every living Indo can still sing "Den Haag, Den Haag, de weduwe van Indië ben jij" (The Hague, you are the widow of Indonesia). Not without shedding a tear, I might add.
So this wonderful post took me back instantly, to those parties where my grandmother cooked 20+ dishes for 40+ people. The sweet rose-scented lemonades, the bickering aunts. My uncle and my cousins bringing their instruments and turning the house and the garden into a feast of sweet sounds, wonderful food and laughter and beers and dancing all around.
posted by ouke at 12:37 AM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I liked the version they did on Glee last night, but nothing on television will ever compare to the death of Mark Greene. ER was one of the first serial dramas on TV I was really hooked on, and that scene had my wife and I weeping. I had never heard the song before that point, and the way it blends the optimism of the lyrics with a certain melancholy and wistfulness of tone made the scene about 10 times more emotional than it would have been without it. Thanks for the post, zarq.

While we're talking about Glee, did anyone else not completely buy Sue Sylvester's change of heart? I mean, I know she's really a sweetie deep inside (her relationship with her sister is proof), but it seemed a bit sudden, no?
posted by Rock Steady at 12:49 AM on June 9, 2010


Despite the heart breaking and touching moments when this Over the rainbow was used, the one that always sticks with me is the one at the end of the Scrubs 100th episode.

What's strange is that I've only just realised that it's not Iz singing it - it's ted's band...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 1:16 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dan Kois (See also) recently published Facing Future as part of the 33 1/3 Series. It is quite excellent.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:35 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can anyone who speaks the language give me tips on how to pronounce Iz's surname? Thanks.
posted by surenoproblem at 1:56 AM on June 9, 2010


kah-MAH-kah-vee-vo-O-lay.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:20 AM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow. Well done zarq.
posted by fixedgear at 2:29 AM on June 9, 2010


Beautiful tribute. Thank you!
posted by chara at 2:29 AM on June 9, 2010


Hey, I'm a fat Hawaiian who can play a few chords on the ukulele and before I die I'd like to get the words wrong to "Wonderful World" and then awkwardly seque into "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and you should just love it because it's beautiful.

That won "Snarkiest Response" at the Hawaiian Finals last year. Sorry to repeat it here.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:33 AM on June 9, 2010


Zarg....well done! I'll have to take a day off to give this post the attention it deserves!

I've always loved iz's music...thanks for this!
posted by HuronBob at 3:25 AM on June 9, 2010


Hey zarq, you do fabulous FPPs--and this is a great one. Thanks.
posted by maxwelton at 3:43 AM on June 9, 2010


goddamn. I *thought* I knew Iz.

aloha for this FPP, bruddah. Iz has been the backing soundtrack for some of the most magic moments of my annual trips to the islands (mom lives in Wailuku, and so, by extension, it's my home-away-from-home, even if I didn't have the luck of being raised there) and I'm all for spreading the word.
posted by squasha at 4:10 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's hoping the comments can do this fantastic post justice!
posted by grubi at 4:50 AM on June 9, 2010


Posts like this make me very happy that Youtube exists, and not every copyright holder is an antagonistic asshat.

Wonderful post, zarq.
posted by DigDoug at 4:53 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


You should really get a blog. That's not meant as a negative comment, I would read it.
posted by smackfu at 6:06 AM on June 9, 2010


Great, great post -- thanks so much.
posted by AwkwardPause at 6:12 AM on June 9, 2010


Damn. This is why I love the Internet. Thank you.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:13 AM on June 9, 2010


Oh thanks, zarq, yet another massive post about Israel is just what we needed.

LOL! How does one say "Flag it and Move On, My Brudda" in Hawai'ian? :D
posted by zarq at 6:24 AM on June 9, 2010


Surfurrus, thank you. That's beautiful. :)
posted by zarq at 6:25 AM on June 9, 2010


And thank you, everyone. :)
posted by zarq at 6:26 AM on June 9, 2010


Wow! Fabulous!
posted by eenagy at 6:32 AM on June 9, 2010


Fantastic, well-researched FPP!

As it happens, I heard Iz's version of "Over the Rainbow" for the first time this weekend, at a wedding.

And:

It's terrible.

I mean, this is maybe the saddest song in the whole American songbook. It's beautiful and simple. The singer looks up at the sky and imagines a whole life free of the pain and despair that life on the ground is made of, and imagines a better world, and says "I'll get there." Except when Judy Garland sings it, she doesn't hide that what she means is "I'll never get there -- all I have is my dreams and this song, and I'm stuck here on the earth, so that has to be enough." Hard to hear it without choking up.

And then IK plays it as a ditty. He managed to record this song in such a way that people thought it was a good idea to play it as the first dance at their wedding. It's a crime against a great work!

But it's still a great FPP.
posted by escabeche at 6:43 AM on June 9, 2010


great post.
posted by mwhybark at 6:47 AM on June 9, 2010


"all I have is my dreams and this song, and I'm stuck here on the earth, so that has to be enough."

This actually sounds like a pretty realistic way to start a marriage.
posted by uri at 7:07 AM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


You should really get a blog. That's not meant as a negative comment, I would read it.

Thanks. That's nice of you. :) Actually I do have one on LiveJournal (I'll add it back to my profile shortly,) but haven't posted to it much over the last year. I've changed a lot since my kids were born. My priorities have shifted and I'm a lot less dogmatic. So I haven't really figured out what direction I want take it now.
posted by zarq at 7:12 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The singer looks up at the sky and imagines a whole life free of the pain and despair that life on the ground is made of, and imagines a better world, and says "I'll get there." Except when Judy Garland sings it, she doesn't hide that what she means is "I'll never get there -- all I have is my dreams and this song, and I'm stuck here on the earth, so that has to be enough."

You're so not hearing this the way we hear it in Hawaii.

The man is singing about, among other things, the loss of the Hawaiian's land. He knows they're not likely to ever get it back. Even if they do, he knows he's never going to see it happen.

Iz's version is heartbreaking.

Not saying its better or worse that Garlands, but it ain't no ditty.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:32 AM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just as a sidebar, a few days ago, NPR did a piece on the rising popularity of the ukulele, and they pointed to Iz as the starting point for it.
posted by adamrice at 7:35 AM on June 9, 2010


Ah, this is interesting, Joey. Maybe my ears were idiosyncratic on this -- the fact that apparently they play this song when dudes die on TV shows also suggests you're supposed to hear his version as sad.
posted by escabeche at 7:36 AM on June 9, 2010


Wow. Thanks, man!
posted by Shepherd at 7:39 AM on June 9, 2010


This is a fabulous post. It's the sort of thing that someone like me, who knows nothing about Iz, can really dig into, or can come away knowing quite a bit by just reading the post, never mind the links. Fantastic job!
posted by immlass at 7:42 AM on June 9, 2010


Iz's version of "Over the Rainbow" was one of the first songs I learned on ukulele, and I'm in the process of teaching it to my 15-year-old daughter. It's not a difficult song, really, but, you know, technique is everything.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:59 AM on June 9, 2010


escabeche, to add a little something to what Joey Michaels said:

When taken as a whole, Israel's music is a heartfelt lamentation and tribute to native Hawai'ian culture -- a rich community of traditions, beliefs and language that has been replaced by the many other trappings of modern life and statehood -- condos .

I wanted to convey that in the body of this FPP... but couldn't figure out how to say it well last night.

Interestingly enough, Native Hawaiian culture has been experiencing a revival over the last two or three decades. Hawai'i is now working to preserve and celebrate native culture, language and history in their public projects, and has introduced a Native culture curriculum into their public schools. Students actually have to pass tests on the subject before they're allowed to graduate High School.

I'm sure some residents of the state (like Joey Michaels or Surfurrus) could expand on this further, if you're interested.
posted by zarq at 8:03 AM on June 9, 2010


Except when Judy Garland sings it, she doesn't hide that what she means is "I'll never get there --

In case you haven't been there, Hawaii is the land over the rainbow (if anywhere is), so for a native Hawaiian to sing the song as you insist would necessarily ring false. This is why Israel K's take manages to rise above the no doubt thousands of versions of the song that have been performed over the years. BECAUSE it's coming from a different place. Not of yearning for something but of having it, and having it taken from you. Or as Don Henley pointed out in one of his better songs, "Call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye".

Again, in this light, I can't recommend Hawaii 78 enough, and the intro version.
posted by philip-random at 8:23 AM on June 9, 2010


While in Hawaii with my family some years back, my brother and I stopped at a sidewalk stand where a lady was selling Hawaiian music. She had a number of CDs with Iz on the front. My brother made some dumb joke about his size, and I snickered. The lady said "He was more of a man than you will ever be," which made us snicker a bit more, and seemed pretty defensive back then.

Looking back, we were jerks for making fun of an overweight man, but more than that, we were mocking so much Hawaiian culture. To that lady, Iz, and the rest of the people of Hawaii, I apologize.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:48 AM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Great story to a song I thought was just some one-hitter that lucked out and went 'viral'.

But yeah, I think I've heard it at half the weddings that I've ever been to - which always confused/humoured me after most TV shows associate it with death or finales.
posted by jeffmik at 9:32 AM on June 9, 2010


Yeah, hearing this at weddings sounds about as appropriate as the prom song my graduating class voted in ("Tears in Heaven" by Eric Clapton, about his son who'd fallen off a building). But it's a great song and I don't begrudge its fame one bit although it's getting alllmost as played as Cohen's "Hallelujah" in movies.
posted by jtron at 10:27 AM on June 9, 2010


Outstanding, Zarq. I'd never heard of the singer or this version of the song until the ER episode. It was incredibly moving.
posted by etaoin at 10:49 AM on June 9, 2010


And ditto of Eva Cassidy, another one I hadn't heard of until she died. Gorgeous voice. It pisses me off when some punk with no talent grabs all the headlines and beautiful voices like these are overlooke for so long. I saw Michelle Kwan skate to Cassidy's version of Fields of Gold, and that, too, will move you to tears.

Zarq, based on this posting alone, will you marry me?
posted by etaoin at 11:00 AM on June 9, 2010


And ditto of Eva Cassidy, another one I hadn't heard of until she died. Gorgeous voice. It pisses me off when some punk with no talent grabs all the headlines and beautiful voices like these are overlooke for so long. I saw Michelle Kwan skate to Cassidy's version of Fields of Gold, and that, too, will move you to tears.

I'm working on an Eva Cassidy post! Seriously, I am. Hoping to have it done by early next week.

Zarq, based on this posting alone, will you marry me?

Awww, that's sweet of you. But I'll have to ask my wife first. ;) I'd be happy to MeFi spouse you instead.... :D
posted by zarq at 11:08 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Between this, flt's M.U.S.C.L.E. post, and jonp72's Robert Williams post, we're having a pretty amazing week as far as great FPP's go.
posted by HumanComplex at 11:20 AM on June 9, 2010


This is "post of the decade" material, zarq. Really, really wonderfully done. Thank you.
posted by threetoed at 11:32 AM on June 9, 2010


Ah, Eva and Iz, the ole one-two of dead folks who stirred their listeners into walking into my music department by the hordes to ask for songs by singer's whose names they totally couldn't remember.

I remember completely boggling one couple who walked up and had barely gotten "Somewhere over the-" out of their mouths before I handed them the copy of Iz that I had just happened to be holding.
posted by redsparkler at 11:35 AM on June 9, 2010


escabeche: It's a crime against a great work!

To be fair, late in her life, I bet Judy Garland mangled the lyrics at least as badly. I'm a giant fan of Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, so I appreciate the desire to hear the song rendered as skillfully and carefully as it was written. But in my book, Mr. Kamakawiwoʻole gets a pass.

I don't know why this guy's music is so phenomenally moving. It just Iz.

What a wonderful post.
posted by donmateo at 11:36 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's a real example of someone educating through music. It's very easy to go to Hawaii and ignore the issues on the island, but you pick up an Iz CD and you start wondering what he's talking about in some of the songs and maybe you should find out.
posted by smackfu at 11:48 AM on June 9, 2010


I don't like the medley but this is a great post. Besides, Eva Cassidy.
posted by ersatz at 12:27 PM on June 9, 2010


Posts like this make me very happy that Youtube Metafilter exists. Thank you.

I had the same immediate intense love for this song as many others have felt, and was delighted to make Iz' musical acquaintance. This is a lovely post.
posted by theora55 at 1:46 PM on June 9, 2010


Jesus is there a post contest this month?
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 2:13 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


wow!
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:15 PM on June 9, 2010


(they play all kinds of inapproriate stuff at weddings - Runaround Sue, anyone?)
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:15 PM on June 9, 2010


As far as I'm aware I had never heard this version of this song until I checked out this (amazing) post this morning and then it was on Glee and apparently it's as ubiquitous as Hallelujah and Eva Cassidy is obscure?
I think I'm pop culture-aware and then something this widespread completely passes me by and I feel like I've dropped into a parallel universe.
Is this version's popularity a US only thing?
posted by minifigs at 3:17 PM on June 9, 2010


Nope, I'm in the US and never heard it until this wedding. I think it's sort of narrowcast.
posted by escabeche at 4:11 PM on June 9, 2010


He's a real example of someone educating through music. It's very easy to go to Hawaii and ignore the issues on the island, but you pick up an Iz CD and you start wondering what he's talking about in some of the songs and maybe you should find out.

What's interesting is that Iz's music means something very different in the context of Hawaii than outside of Hawaii. For many people, Facing Future might be the only world music album in their collection (or "Rainbow" their only Hawaiian song on their MP3 player). It reminds them of sad or wistful scenes on TV shows or in movies, or perhaps of their vacation to Hawaii. I wouldn't be surprised if there were Jimmy Buffet style bars out their that had the album in regular rotation.

In Hawaii, well, almost everyone knows all about Iz. His importance in the Makaha Sons of Niihau; how he started to take up the mantle of activism only after his brother (and fellow Sons member) Skippy passed away; his struggle with drugs; his struggle with his weight; his contention split (and his moving reunion with them at the '96 Na Hoku awards) and the way that he turned his health - indeed, his life - into a metaphor for what many Hawaiians were experiencing across the islands. His songs come with a certain amount of - if you'll excuse this choice of words - weight already attached to them. Its almost impossible to separate the man, the music and the growing mythology.

I really do believe the Kois book I linked earlier gives a fantastic overview of the place of both the album and the man in the history of American (and, of course, Hawaiian) music if you're curious.

Its been linked before here, but the song that breaks my heart every time I hear it is "Hawaii 78". When he returns to "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono" at the end of the song... man, his voice. (as a side note Eddie Vedder will get an artistic pass from me for whatever he does the rest of his life for performing "Hawaii '78" in Honolulu a few years back)

And the song that makes me weep when I'm away from Hawaii is his version of "White Sandy Beach." (I know I'm relinking these songs - I love them - I can't help it)

But really, these are just the tip of the iceberg of his work. Zarq has done a fine job of linking some of his high points, so mahalo friend!
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:23 PM on June 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


When my mother was a few months away from passing, losing her 10-year bout with Cancer, she asked me to make a memorial video for her funeral service. I compiled photos from over the years, and a few minutes of an hourlong interview I did with her on her last Christmas (which was also her last birthday). The big issue was ... what music would I use for the photo slideshow portion of this video?

I called a friend of mine who's good with this stuff, and I told him the dilemma. He said "You wanna look up a 'What A Wonderful World / Somewhere Over The Rainbow' medley by Isreal... Kama..something-or-other". It was the first time I'd heard about him, or this song, but... it fit perfectly.

The last time I saw my mother, I showed her the DVD I made per her instructions. She was too tired to speak by that point, she just cried and hugged me. After her memorial service, almost everyone who walked past me asked "who played that wonderful medley during the video you showed?". My best answer was "Google for Israel Kama and let it auto-fill the rest. I can't spell or pronounce the full name". I still can't hear that track without losin' my shit.

As far as I'm concerned, I owe a debt to Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. Not sure how I'll ever pay that.
posted by revmitcz at 4:25 PM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


A pretty song which really suffered badly from over-exposure.
posted by ovvl at 5:23 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Its been linked before here, but the song that breaks my heart every time I hear it is "Hawaii 78". When he returns to "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono" at the end of the song... man, his voice.

I break into helpless sobs nearly every time I hear this song. I have to be careful when I have my ipod on shuffle.
posted by rtha at 5:47 PM on June 9, 2010


It was the first time I'd heard about him, or this song, but... it fit perfectly.

This... oh lord, this. This right here is why I can't understand playing this song at a wedding or graduation or anything uplifting. Not because of the song's original meaning, but because this song will forever be burned into my head as the "So you've just lost a loved one tragically" song.

Though I tend to associate it more with children dying before their time than with parents, the point still stands.
posted by Phineas Rhyne at 10:19 AM on June 10, 2010


Rock Steady: I liked the version they did on Glee last night

This is a great post, but I have to admit that I think Kamakawiwo'ole's version of "Over the Rainbow" has been flogged not only TO death but past it by popular sitcoms, and used in the most inappropriate places ... such as, for example, the Glee finale.

Mr. Schu: "Thanks for singing to me a song about what a great teacher I've been, kids. In response, here's a song about how my present locale is one where I'm beset by troubles and I'm not living my dream, and I long to get out of here!"
posted by WCityMike at 10:37 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Glee didn't do the mashup version though, right? Just straight with a ukelele.
posted by smackfu at 11:08 AM on June 10, 2010


He could've gone with "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," another song that's often used inappropriately.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:50 AM on June 10, 2010


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