Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

From Academic Kids

Israel "Braddah Iz" Kamakawiwo‘ole (May 20, 1959June 26, 1997) was the most popular entertainer and singer in Hawai‘i until his death at the age of 38. He became famous outside Hawai‘i when his album Facing Future was released in 1993 with his medley of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World". The song has been included in the end of several movies, including: You've Got Mail, Finding Forrester, Meet Joe Black, and 50 First Dates.

Facing Future (1993) debuted at #25 on Billboard Magazine's Top Pop Catalog chart. Alone In IZ World, (2001) debuted at #1 on Billboard's World Chart and #135 on Billboard's Top 200, #13 on the Top Independent Albums Chart, and #15 on the Top Internet Album Sales chart.

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Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole was born in 1959 on the island of O‘ahu at Kuakini Hospital to Henry Kaleialoha Naniwa and Evangeline Leinani Kamakawiwo‘ole. He was raised in the community of Kaimuki on the outskirts of Waikīkī where his parents met and married. He began playing music with his older brother Skippy at the age of 11, being privy to the music of the great Hawaiian entertainers of the time such as the likes of Peter Moon, Palani Vaughn, and Don Ho, who frequented the establishment that Iz's parents worked at.

In his early teens, his family moved to Makaha. There, he met Louis "Moon" Kauakahi, Sam Gray and Jerome Koko. Together with his brother Skippy they formed the Makaha Sons of Ni‘ihau. From 1976 throughout the 1980s, Makaha gained in popularity as the Hawaiian contemporary band toured Hawai‘i and the continental United States and released 10 successful albums.

In 1982 Iz's brother Skippy Kamakawiwo‘ole died. In that same year, Iz married his childhood sweetheart Marlene and soon after had a daughter who they named Ceslieanne "Wehi."

In 1990, Iz released his first solo album Ka‘ano‘i which won him awards for Contemporary Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year from the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts (HARA). Facing Future was released in 1993. Considered his "best" album by many, "Facing Future" featured his most popular song, the medley Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World", along with "Hawai‘i 78," "White Sandy Beach of Hawai‘i," "Maui Hawaiian Sup'pa Man," and "Kaulana Kawaihae. In 1994 Iz was voted favorite entertainer of the year by HARA. E Ala E (1995) featured the political title song "E Ala E" and "Kaleohano,", and In Dis Life (1996) featured "In This Life" and "Starting All Over Again."

As his career progressed, Iz was 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.

In 1997, Iz was again honored by the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts at the Annual Na Hoku Hanohano awards for Male Vocalist of the Year, Favorite Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year, and Island Contemporary Album of the Year. He watched the awards ceremony from a hospital room.

Throughout the latter part of his life, Iz was considered obese and at one point weighed over 750 pounds (340 kilograms). He suffered several hospitalizations and died of weight-related respiratory illness on June 26, 1997 at 12:18 a.m. at the age of 38. The Hawai‘i State Flag flew at half-mast throughout the day. Iz lay in state at the Capitol building in Honolulu, where over 10,000 came to pay respects over the course of the first day. His ashes were scattered into the ocean at Makua Beach.

Iz was nicknamed "The Gentle Giant" by his many admirers. He is also noted for being among the few pure-blooded Native Hawaiians in the world. He was described as always cheerful and positive, and was best known for his love of the land and of the people of Hawai‘i.fr:Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

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