Hawaiian, Iz Kamakawiwo'ole Left a Huge Footprint On My Life
Iz The Man And His Music
"E ALA E"
A Hawaiian man and his music, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, better known as IZ, left such a huge footprint on my life. The first time that I remember hearing his incredible voice was in 1997 and as I recall, there was an ad on TV and it was playing “Somewhere over the rainbow”. The voice was a male’s voice and at the time I thought “Wow! who is this person with this incredible voice?”
Later I was visiting family in Oregon and my sister Judy told me about Iz and that he was Hawaiian. She had a CD called “Ka Anoi” his first solo album. I played it over and over. The songs were very diverse but with his haunting and uplifting voice they were inspiring to listen to.
Late in the year of 1997, my two partners and I bought and old rundown building in a small town called Graton, near Sebastopol, California. Graton was then a small country town with maybe a dozen buildings mostly deserted and boarded up. One contractor had bought most of the buildings, we bought the last one.. I have included pics of before and after we remodeled. It was originally the post office and at one time a small grocery store. We had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into! We had to gut the whole building and pick it up and sit it back down, this required earthquake proofing and all sorts of stuff that we did not know about.
"Old Post Office before remodeling"
"Patterson's Emporium after remodeling"
After completion, it turned out to be a beautiful building. It was a two story building and we had a two bedroom and two bath apartment upstairs. Downstairs, which was the same square feet as upstairs about 1200 ft., we opened a small store which we called Patterson’s Emporium. We sold all kinds of home accessories, a few antiques and paintings and art from local artists. We also put a fantastic sound system in the store. Going to the gift and home shows in San Francisco to stock the store with merchandise we discovered some wonderful items and also a few venders that carried music. This music was mostly instrumental and good background music to play for customers
I finally got “Facing Future” another of Iz’s CDs. On the back was all the info I needed to get hold of the Mountain Apple record company in Honolulu, Hawaii. I was surprised that they had put out three albums of Iz’s music, “Facing Future”, “E ALA E”, and “In Dis Life”. First when I called they were a little skeptical about our selling these, since we were not based on the Islands. We had to open an account, if I remember right, order a dozen each of the CDs. On the day of the Grand Opening of the store I played Israel’s music, and for four years until the day we closed it was still playing. It was phenomenal how many CDs we sold in those four year’s. As the years went by we started handling more Hawaiian themed merchandise and we would go over to Oahu about 2 to 3 times. One vendor was called Island Heritage selling cards, cups, and cool knicknacks. We always made an appointment with Mountain Apple Record Company. We were treated very well and they could not believe how many CDs we were selling of Iz’s.
"Somewhere Over The Rainbow What a Wonderful World"
People from all walks of life came into the store and would start browsing around and sooner or later would ask what we were playing on the sound system. They had never heard this music before and were transfixed by the wonderful lyrics and voice. On the counter I had set up a display with Iz’s picture and the CDs I would go through my song and dance describing who he was and a short bio of him. Almost always customers would at least buy one and, sure enough, they would come back and get the others. I had many customers that were traveling and they would either call or send me a letter asking me to ship them more copies. We were ordering two to three times a month; orders got up to 20 each. Many customers would tell friends and just pass the word on that this little store in Graton had this incredible music. One of my partners once asked me “don’t you ever get tired of playing this music over and over everyday?” - its amazing that I never once got tired of listening to Iz, even to this day.
I am a quarter Hawaiian because my father was half, my mother is Finnish. My dad was born in the state of Washington along with other sisters and brothers. We have lots of ohana (family) on the Hawaiian Islands. Iz, even though his life was cut very short, was born on May 20, 1959 and died on June 26, 1997. At one time he weighed around 750 lbs. He became a legend and hero with the native Hawaiians. Somehow his voice just brought them together and I believe that this has not happened since they lost their Queen. He was an inspiration to them all and many of his songs were traditional using his native language and native instruments. At times he would just play the ukalele without any back up instruments and it was beautiful.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this and listening to Iz, as much as I did writing it. I feel great knowing that I was able to pass along to many people over the years a voice and spirit of not only Iz but the Hawaiian people themselves. The Hawaiian history is much like the native Americans and Alaskans’ whose lives were changed forever and against their will.
Mahalo and to all that have read this Aloha