Saturday, March 09, 2013

Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwoʻole - Facing Future

I just downloaded this one today. I feel I must say something about it.

Israel "Iz" Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole (click for the Wikipedia link if you want to see how to pronounce his last name) was a Hawaiian musician:  singer and ukulele player.  Follow the link again to read all the details of his life.

Although he was already well-known in Hawaii, this album got him worldwide exposure and his medley of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" has been used in numerous movies and commercials.  I remember coming across a link to the "Rainbow" part of that medley on YouTube several months ago and was stunned by how hauntingly beautiful it was.  It was also haunting because I realized I had heard it somewhere before, although I couldn't remember where, and at the time I was thinking, "how could I have forgotten I ever heard this?"  And honestly, I don't even want to hear "traditional" versions of that song anymore.

This whole album is just awesome, and the whole thing will be going on my big favorites list.  He sings mostly in Hawaiian, but there are a couple of songs in English, namely the medley I've already mentioned and his own special version of John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" that he re-wrote specifically for Hawaii.

His has a mellow tenor voice that sounds like streams of liquid gold floating across blue, sun-dappled waters.  And although my clumsy strumming will never match his playing ability, and my own reedy tenor will never compare with his golden voice, I've already begun practicing the "Rainbow" part of the medley.

He died in 1997 at the young age of 38 from various complications brought on by his severe obesity.  This was the second of four albums he made before his death.  Four more have been released since then.  In my opinion, anyone who even half-assedly wants to play the ukulele should have this album, and listen to it often.


  1. My wife and I just listened to this and figure we must have heard it on Hawaii Five-O at least partially. That guy had a beautiful voice, "...a mellow tenor voice that sounds like streams of liquid gold floating across blue, sun-dappled waters"; your description was perfect!

  2. The main place I've heard his music, chiefly "Over the Rainbow", is as bumper music on "Coast to Coast AM" (formerly "The Art Bell Show") when I'm waking up at 0-dark-30.