Israel "Bruddah Iz"
(pronounced ka-maka-vi-vo-ole) was born on the 20th May 1959 to
Henry Kaleialoha Naniwa Kamakawiwoʻole,
Jr. and Evangeline Leinani Kamakawiwoʻole.
He lived the first 10 years of his life in Palolo Valley on O'ahu.
Then the family moved to Makaha. He started playing music with his
older brother Skippy when he was just 11 years old.
In his early teens,
his family moved to Makaha, Hawaii. There, he met Louis "Moon"
Kauakahi, Sam Gray, and Jerome Koko. Israel formed the musical
group Makaha Sons of Niʻihau
with brother Skippy plus Louis "Moon" Kauakahi, Sam Gray and
Jerome Koko. They recorded No Kristo in 1976 and released
four more albums, including Kahea O Keale, Keala,
Makaha Sons Of Ni'ihau and Mahalo Ke Akua, before
Skippy's death of a heart attack in 1982. The group became
Hawaii's most popular traditional group with breakout albums like
1984's Puana Hou Me Ke Aloha and its follow-up, 1986's
Israel's last recorded album with the group was 1991's Hoʻoluana.
It remains the group's top-selling CD.
Izrael's first solo
album, Ka'ano'i, released in 1990 won awards for
Contemporary Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year from
Academy of Recording Arts (HARA). His next album,
Facing Future was released in 1993 and featured his most
popular song, the medley "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a
Wonderful World", along with "Hawaiʻi
78", "White Sandy Beach of Hawaiʻi",
"Maui Hawaiian Sup'pa Man", and "Kaulana Kawaihae". Facing
Future became Hawaii's first certified platinum album, selling
more than a million CDs in the United States, according to figures
furnished by the Recording Industry Association of America. In
1997, Izrael was again honoured by HARA at the Annual Nā Hōkū
Hanohano awards for Male Vocalist of the Year, Favorite
Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year, and Island
Contemporary Album of the Year. In 2001, his album Alone In
IZ World debuted at number 1 on Billboard's World Chart.
As his career
progressed, Iz became known for promoting Hawaiian rights and
Hawaiian Independence, both through his music (whose lyrics often
stated the case for independence directly) and through his life. Throughout
the latter part of his life, Iz suffered from severe obesity and
sadly passed away on 26th June, 1997 at the age of 38.
On the day of his
funeral, 10th July, 1997, the Hawaii State Flag flew at half-mast.
His coffin lay in state at the Capitol building in Honolulu - the
third person, and the only non-politician, in Hawaiian history to
be accorded this honour. Over 10,000 people attended his funeral.
Thousands of fans gathered and cheered as his ashes were scattered
into the Pacific Ocean at Mākua Beach on the 12th July, 1997.
On the 20th September,
2003, hundreds of people paid tribute to Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
as a 200-pound bronze bust of the revered singer was unveiled at
the Waianae Neighborhood Community Center on Oʻahu.
The singer's widow, Marlene Kamakawiwoʻole,
and sculptor Jan-Michelle Sawyer were present for the dedication
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was a gentle
giant of a man with a little ukulele and the golden voice of an
angel. He left behind a deep and profound musical legacy that
reaches into the very heart and soul of the listener. He possessed
a MANA - an aura and energy - that was quite special and
unique which reached out to his audience and brought tears to
their eyes. He was definitely one of a kind whose heart was
always with his beloved Hawaii and the Hawaiian people.
Very sadly, Iz has left us and
we sorely miss him. He has certainly enriched our lives with a
lasting legacy for which we are forever most grateful. His
exceptional and rare talent will remain with us always and will
never be forgotten.