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The Life & Early Death Of Singer Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

Apr 17, 2024
From the Forbidden Island to somewhere beyond the rainbow, one of Hawaii's most notable musicians had a short but interesting journey to the top. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's official YouTube video for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” has surpassed one billion views, which is not surprising, given the sweet and gentle cuteness of it. But who is the ukulele player with the angelic voice? The history of Israel, widely known as IZ, is full of sadness, anguish and struggles. IZ's Hawaiian heritage can be cl

early

heard in his music and his connection to the islands runs deep. He was born in Honolulu in the months around Hawaii's transition from territory to US state in 1959.
the life early death of singer israel kamakawiwo ole
His mother has an even more incredible and rare connection to the islands, according to her official biography. Evangeline Keale Kamakawiwo'ole was born on the island of Ni'ihau. Also known as the Forbidden Island, it is off-limits to almost everyone, including other Native Hawaiians. It is practically invitation or official visit only, as it is private property. The island can be seen by anyone off the shores of Kaua'i, and has been privately owned since 1864. That's when the Sinclair family purchased it from King Kamehameha V. According to ancestor Brice Robinson and ABC News, the portion Truly banned did not become a reality until the 1950s, with the outbreak of a polio epidemic.
the life early death of singer israel kamakawiwo ole

More Interesting Facts About,

the life early death of singer israel kamakawiwo ole...

The island closed its borders, did not have a single case of polio and kept its doors closed. Today, it is still home to about 100 people who continue to call this 70-square-mile island home and who continue to turn away almost all hopeful visitors. One Kaua'i resident explained, "Ni'ihau was always like a silent sentinel across the ocean, giving us some solace from the storms and the open ocean beyond." IZ's

early

years were spent growing up in the Honolulu suburb of Kaimuki. However, it was not an easy childhood. According to Facing Future by Dan Kois, a book about the album of the same name, her parents worked nights most of the time.
the life early death of singer israel kamakawiwo ole
Work was difficult to find, and while his mother hurried to find any job she could, her father drove a garbage truck. Meanwhile, young IZ passed between family members. Much of his time was spent with his grandfather, who pampered him and encouraged him to fully enjoy the best foods in the area to help fill the void left by his parents. He also neglected the kind of

life

-guiding correction that IZ needed.   According to his uncle, IZ was a brat and fights were an everyday occurrence. "One of the most rotten, spoiled kids I've ever seen in my

life

. I swear." He suffered bullying because of his weight, was expelled from school several times and preferred to miss classes rather than attend.
the life early death of singer israel kamakawiwo ole
Summers he spent outside the city, with his grandfather in their relatively rural ancestral home of Ni'ihau. He spent his time immersed in the island's traditional culture and would mature into a deep-rooted appreciation for his ancestry. But, as expected, he also got bored of all this when he was a child. IZ's family was musical and, according to his biography, he was only 6 years old when he picked up a ukulele and began participating in his family's musical creation. IZ fell in love and those who knew him at school remembered that he preferred to sit outside and play music than go to class.
In an interview, IZ recalled his first instruments and said that he had had a ukulele almost as long as he could remember. His first ukulele was a gift from his uncle. He said: "They couldn't take the ukulele away from me. I learned, just by listening and watching. Watching and listening is worth it." Five years later, 11-year-old IZ began turning music into a legitimate career when he began performing alongside his older brother on a catamaran tour of Waikiki. By then, he already knew what he wanted to play. "I never had a pull of one side, you know, rock and roll and Hawaiian.
It was never a pull of, you know, this and that." IZ's love of music and his distaste for the more traditional parts of life were a recurring theme. When he was older, he was supposedly enrolled at Wai'anae High School, but his old friend Del Beazley recalled: "I saw him at school once or twice, but never in class. He would come to school in the morning, take his ukulele, and that's it. I was on the beach about eight or nine o'clock." IZ swapped high school for beach life after he and a friend got in trouble for performing impromptu concerts in the school bathroom.
Not only were the instruments removed from the music department, but it became so popular that other students would sneak in to hear it. It was during one of his many days at the beach that he met Jerry Koko, another aspiring musician who was skipping his classes at the community college. Koko invited IZ to join his group of friends the next time they got together to play, and from then on the group also invited IZ's cousin and brother. The entire group simply clicked and adopted a name: the Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau.  Although the list has changed over the years, the Makaha Sons will still be performing in 2023.
Ni'ihau's Makaha Sons would become one of the most famous groups to play Hawaiian music and, along with many other awards, were included in the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame in 2012. However, success was not instantaneous and the band definitely paid their dues. Facing Future tells how they began playing all over Makaha, booking shows at birthday parties and school dances, as well as appearing at parties that sprung up along the island's beaches. After about a year of that, they landed what they considered their first official gig: headlining a fundraising event organized for a youth soccer team. Their band's name appeared alongside some of the heavy hitters of the era, and it made them take a step back and consider the fact that maybe it wasn't just a crazy dream after all.
Maybe they could make it as legitimate musicians. When they started booking shows at real nightclubs, they thought they had made it.   The year after that first fundraising concert, they recorded their first album. For years, IZ was content being one of the Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau, even as other members of the band came and went. That included his older brother, Vice says; Skippy Kamakawiwo'ole was one of the band's founding members and died of an obesity-related heart condition when he was just 28 years old. According to Hawaii News Now, IZ spent 17 years with the band and, considering he joined when he was 17, it was a lifetime.
However, those 17 years were plagued by health problems, and those who knew him best also knew that he struggled with the belief that he was destined to live a short life. In 1993, 11 years after his brother's

death

, IZ came to the conclusion that if he wanted to leave a legacy to support his wife and his young daughter, he needed to do it alone. He was in the hospital when he called Jon de Mello, the CEO of the Mountain Apple Company record label. De Mello met him at the hospital, where they sat down for a long conversation about IZ's departure from The Makaha Sons and what his solo career would look like.
IZ wrote the songs that had special meaning to him and, after asking some old friends to join him, they began rehearsing while he was still in the hospital. While IZ's smooth singing voice may not sound like the voice of a party animal, he absolutely is. According to Facing Future, his wild ways created some conflict within the group from the beginning, particularly between him and his more serious older brother. Part of the problem was his habitual drug use, but that wasn't the end of it. A year before his brother's

death

, Israel was arrested after being accused of punching a man and breaking his jaw.
He served a prison sentence and then went to the city immediately after his release. Marriage and a child didn't change things either, and his wife Marlene candidly recounted the first seven years they were together. She came home from work, he went to the city and returned at five in the morning, under the influence of alcohol. As she said on Facing Future: "Years like this used to drive me crazy. But someone had to be sane and responsible." When he suffered a massive heart attack in 1989, he gave up drugs and alcohol for a time, before relapsing in 1996. "We became mature adults, several years before he passed away.
I guess through him, he taught me how to don't go back." ". Although IZ has recorded many songs, the most famous is undoubtedly his moving performance of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." And as sound engineer Milan Bertosa told Ukulele Magazine, IZ did everything in one take, at 3 :30 in the morning, Bertosa remembered that he had just finished a long and difficult recording session with another group when his phone rang. It was another of his recording clients who wanted to bring a friend to use the studio. The next day, but he wouldn't take no for an answer. He recalled, "He puts Iz on the phone, he's soft-spoken and very polite and very sweet, kind of the embodiment of what a nice Hawaiian person is." IZ is what convinced him, and when he got there, he sat down with his ukulele and nailed it in one take.
He went on to sing "White Sandy Beach" as well, and Bertosa was so moved by the song that he said, "After those 15." Within minutes I thought, 'This is what I'm supposed to do for a living.' " When Bertosa passed away in 2023 after suffering a heart attack, Hawaii News Now praised him as a champion of traditional Hawaiian music. Just four years after embarking on his solo career, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole passed away.   The official cause of death was a series of obesity-related illnesses that culminated in respiratory failure. IZ, who had been dependent on an oxygen tank for some time and needed the help of a forklift to get on and off stages, was 38 years old at the time of his death. death and all the islands mourned the loss of one of their native sons.
Radio stations were bombarded with calls from tearful fans, flags flew at half-mast, and he became the third person to lie in state at the Hawaii Capitol. Mountain Apple CEO Jon de Mello explained to NPR that IZ had a beautiful vision of life and death, saying, "I was scared when I lost my mother, my father, my brother, my sister. , but I'm not afraid of dying. Because I think all these places are temporary. This is just a shell. When our time comes, don't cry for me. Do not Cry for Me. Plant a tree...something small, then I will grow.
IZ was cremated after being visited by at least ten thousand people. His ashes were scattered in the water at O'ahu's Makua Beach, and each year, fans and loved ones continue to swim in the same spot to celebrate his birthday. "He was one of the kindest and most generous people you'll ever meet." Israel Kamakawiwo'ole would have turned 61 in 2020, and to celebrate his life, Google commissioned an animated version of his famous "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" video. Made in conjunction with Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the video was illustrated by artist Sophie Diao, and to make sure we paid him the proper tribute, she reached out to those who knew him best, including his widow, Marlene, and Jon from Mountain Apple Company. of Mello.
It was his widow who gave Diao a heartfelt suggestion that would form the basis of her work.  Diao told Honolulu magazine: "When I asked Jon and Marlene what Israel would have wanted Doodle to be like, Marlene, without missing a beat, responded, 'Happy. Life is beautiful. He loved life.'" They also said that, no matter what challenges arose in his life, he never lost his determination to keep going.

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