Israel Kamakawiwo'ole: The Hawaiian with the Golden Voice.
A Special musician
Israel Kamakawiwo 'ole
Sometimes in this world we come across some strange or amazing thing, or people, purely by accident. This is what happened to me the other night.
I was visiting a friend who happened to be playing a CD. Whilst we were talking I found myself listening more to the amazing and soothing voice of the singer who was softly playing in the background.
I asked who he was, and my friend stated that he thought the man was Hawaiian but wasn't sure. All he knew was, that he had died about ten years ago. I couldn't get this song out of my head. It was a well known tune, 'Somewhere over the rainbow' but the person singing it was amazing.
The tune was more upbeat than the usual versions and I kept humming it all the next day. By that evening I couldn't get on with any work, I had to look up this mysterious singer. Clicking onto the video I watched this amazing man sing the tune with such rhythm and a beautiful tone to his voice.
Then I began to watch the people around him and realised that I had come across someone extraordinary. The local people around him were smiling and dancing, and looking at him with such love and respect that I realised he was someone pretty special. All I can say is by the end of the tape I was nearly in tears. I had never met this man or seen him on TV, but the whole video moved me. So this is when I thought I would write about him. Obviously in America and Hawaii he would be well know, but I had never heard of him. And I felt he deserved to be brought out to the rest of the world.
He was born Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, but his friends and family called him Iz. He came into the world on May the 20th 1959. at Kuakini Hospital in Honolulu. His mother's name was Evangeline Leinani Kamakawiwo'ole, his fathers name was Henry Naniwa Kamakawiwo'ole. When he was brought home he lived in Kaimuku where his parents had met and married.
By the age of eleven, he started to get interested in music with his brother Pippy, and by the time he had reached his teens, he went to study at the university of Hawaii at Hilo, this is when his family moved to Makaha Hawaii. It was here that he met his future band members, Louis Kauakahi, known as Star, Sam Gray, and Jerome Koko, and they called themselves Makaha Sons of Nihau. Singing Hawaiian music they started to gain popularity, and by the late 1970s and into the 1980s they toured Hawaii and the United states.
After releasing fifteen very successful albums. Tragedy struck. Israel's brother, Skippy, died of a heart attack. This must have been devastating for him, and he turned to his
childhood sweetheart, Marlene. And soon afterwards they married. They were lucky enough to have a little girl who they called Ceslieanne Wehi.
He then went on to make numerous albums, which I won't list here as there are too many to mention but you can easily find them on the Internet.
After singing with his group he then went on to sing solo, and won numerous awards including Contemporary album of the year, and Male vocalist of the year.
After a while he became known for promoting Hawaiian rights.
As he got older he became very obese, which later they believed was caused through a medical problem. This made him very ill and at the age of thirty eight, such a young age, he was rushed to hospital but died on June 26 1997.
The loss to music and the country of Hawaii was so great that the Hawaii state flag was flown at half mast on the day of his funeral. he was laid in state at the capitol building of Honolulu. He was only the third person to be given this honour. Thousands of people came to watch as his ashes were scattered over the pacific ocean at Makua beach on July 12 1997.
On September 20 2003, The community had a bronze bust made of him which is displayed at the Waianae neighborhood co unity centre on O'ahu.
After reading about him, I felt I had been missing out on a story of a remarkable man taken too soon. I am sure after watching the video, you will feel the same.