I was first introduced to the Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, also known simply as IZ, back in the year 2000 when my wife and I lived on Kwajalein. Kwaj is a little tropical island in the Marshall Islands that sits right near the equator halfway between Hawai’i and Australia. We lived on Kwaj for three years and spent a lot of time in Hawai’i during that time in our life. On one of our trips to Honolulu, I was browsing through a music shop looking for the latest music releases and I heard this golden voice fill the air. The atmosphere and my mood instantly changed and became very calm. Melissa walked over to me and asked me who this singer was and I had to say that I did not know. I asked the clerk and she told me it was Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. She also said that most people just call him IZ. She continued telling me that he died in 1997 at the young age of 38 due to complications with obesity. He weighed well over 700 pounds and suffered numerous health complications due to his weight. A tragically sad story.
When you hear the voice of IZ, his tones just float in through your ears and down to your heart and soul. And then a pure calm overtakes the entire being. When people talk of “The Voice”, my first thought is Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. Whenever I feel agitated, upset, or unnerved, I listen to the music of IZ. Three titles are my go to IZ songs: “Ahi Wela/Twinkle Little Star”, “In This Life”, and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World”. Most people outside of Hawai’i learned of IZ when his recording of the classic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World” was heard on the popular TV drama “ER” during the death of Dr. Green. When IZ recorded that song, legend tells he recorded it perfectly in ONE TAKE! Amazing!
We lost IZ at a young age, but his voice still lives. Next time you feel agitated or irritated about our current pandemic situation, I urge you to put on a CD or stream any Israel Kamakawiwo’ole album. His voice is powerful and you will very quickly find that you are at peace. Thank you IZ.
My IZ Top Ten
- Ahi Wela/Twinkle Little Star
- Hawai’i ’78 Introduction
- Hawai’i ’78
- In This Life
- Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World
- Take Me Home Country Road
- White Sandy Beach Of Hawai’i
- Sea of Love
- ‘Opae E
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