Born in Kaimuki, Oahu, Hawaii on May 20th 1959,
Israel IZ Kamakawiwoole or "IZ" as he is affectionately called, spent the first five years of his life with his Grandfather, ("Tutu Kane" in Hawaiian) on the
forbidden Hawaiian island of Niihau. In 1964 he returned to the
island of Oahu to live with his immediate family and learned the importance of his
Hawaiian language and heritage. Although IZ has been most closely associated with Makaha and Niihau, his roots can be traced back to Kaimuki, Oahu, where his parents met and married, and settled to begin raising their family at 9th and Kalua streets. IZ grew up playing in the Palolo River and going to the Kaimuki Theater. He was in his early teens when the family moved to Makaha where IZ entered the formative stages of his world in music.
Israel and his brother Skippy formed the Hawaiian Musical group they called "Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau" with neighborhood friends, Louis "Moon" Kauakahi, Sam Gray and Jerome Koko. IZ married his childhood sweetheart Marlene and they soon had a daughter, Ceslieanne "Wehi". In 1982 IZ's brother "Skippy Kamakawiwo'ole" died of a heart attack at the age of 28. It would be only a few years later in 1985 that their group, "The Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau" would win "Best Traditional Hawaiian Album" and "Group of the Year" at the annual "Na Hoku Hanohano Hawaiian Music Awards" ceremony often referred to as "The Hawaiian Grammy Awards". Then in 1987 The Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau's album, "Hoala" won "Haku Mele, Traditional Hawaiian Album" and
"Group of the Year" Na Hoku awards. 1992 brought continued acolades for The Makaha Sons on their "Makaha Bash 3," Hawaiian Music album on which Israel was featured. This album again won the "Group of the Year" and "Engineering Hoku awards". IZ then joined Hawaiian Musical talents, Roland Cazimero, Henry Kapono and Cyril Pahinui in recording the song, "Broken Promise," which went on to win the Hawaiian "Single of the Year" award.
1993 marked a significant turning point in the life of the Hawaiian artist Israel Kamakawiwo'ole as the groups new release, "Ho'oluana," by "The Makaha Sons" won multiple Hoku Awards for "Engineering, Haku Mele",
"Traditional Hawaiian Album of the Year", "Group of the Year" and "Album of the Year". This album was one of the most celebrated in the history of Hawaiian Music and would also be the last album Israel would record on with The Makaha Sons. Following such a successful string of recordings and performances together with "The Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau", Israel Kamakawiwoole, at this point affectionally called "Bruddah IZ", completed his first solo album entitled; "Ka 'Ano'i" which would go on to win another collection of multiple Hoku awards including; "Contemporary Album of the Year" and "Male Vocalist of the Year". It would however be Izzy's extraordinary recording on the Hawaiian album "Facing Future" and his rendition of the "Somewhere Over The Rainbow song" made famous in earlier years by the late great "Judy Garland" that would launch the career of the local Hawaiian boy beyond all Hawaiian and International boundaries. The "Facing Future" Hawaiian CD album launched IZ's impressive solo career and was followed by four additional Hawaiian Music album recordings including; "E Ala E" in 1995, "N Dis Life" in 1996, "IZ In Concert: The Man And His Music" in 1998, and finally "Alone In IZ World" released in 2001. The latter two Music albums being released after IZ's passing in 1997. On his album "E Ala E," IZ was reunited through studio magic with his late brother Skippy Kamakawiwoole and was featured on the albums intro title track. IZ's EKG readings became part of the albums cover designs graphics as at this point IZ had aready compiled a history of health problems and had been hospitalized numerous times because of his weight, which at times exceeded 757 pounds, making it difficult for him to tour and perform during his last few years of life.
In 1997 shortly after IZ's passing, his Hawaiian album "N Dis Life" ran an astounding 39 weeks on the "Billboard Magazine Music Charts" as listeners from around the world were becoming increasingly aware of the music of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. The film and television industries also began the use of IZ's music for their television programs and film projects some of which include; "Young Americans" (Fox Television), "Wind On Water" (NBC), "Party of Five" (Fox Television), "Picket Fences" (CBS), "Race The Sun" (Tri-Star film), "Little Girls In Pretty Boxes" (Victor Television-Lifetime Television Movie Of The Week), "Byrds In Paradise" (ABC), "Lani Loa" (Chrome Dragon Pictures film) and "In God�s Hands" (Independent feature film). Universal Studios then contacted The Mountain Apple Company regarding Israel's recording of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow - What A Wonderful World" after the song caught the attention of director Martin Brest ("Scent Of A Woman", "Beverly Hills Cop") and the song's success exploded internationaly via the blockbuster hit movie; "Meet Joe Black". eToys.com then adopted IZ's "Over The Rainbow Song" for a series of nationally televised commercials.
The success of IZ's music prompted feature articles in "The Washington Post" and in the December 2000 issue of "TV Guide". In December 2000, national best-selling author "Dean Koontz" honored Israel on the front page of his new book "From The Corner of His Eye". Mr. Koontz payed tribute to IZ's music with the following quote: "As I wrote this book, the singular and beautiful music of the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was always playing. I hope that the reader finds pleasure in my story equal to the joy and consolation that I found in the voice, the spirit, and the heart of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole..." Koontz followed this tribute by yet another kudo to IZ's music in his newest best selling book "One Door Away From Heaven" released in December 2001 by stating: "For the second time (the first having been as I worked on "From the Corner of His Eye"), I have written a novel while listening to the singular and beautiful music of the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. When I mentioned Bruddah IZ in that previous book, a couple thousand of you wrote to share your enthusiasm for his life-affirming music. Of his six CDs, my personal favorites are "Facing Future", "In Dis Life", and "E Ala E..."
IZ's music continued to enjoy notoriety in 2001, when once again his music was featured in the major motion picture film, "Finding Forrester" starring Sean Connery and directed by Gus Van Sant ("Good Will Hunting"), released in January 2001. In July of 2001, IZ's music again graced the silver screen, this time in the movie "Made" starring Vince Vaughan and Jon Favreau. On January 29, 2001, "America On Line" (AOL) included information on IZ on their welcome screen, unheard of for a Hawaiian musician. Millions of AOL subscribers were introduced to IZ and his music as they logged on-line. 2001 also saw the release of IZ's newest Hawaiian CD, "Alone In IZ World," which debuted at "#1 on Billboard's World Chart" and "#135 on Billboard's Top 200 Chart". This was an unprecedented achievement for the artist and his Music, as only one out of a total of 12 CDs to ever debut at #1 on the World Chart. It remained in the Top 10 line-up of Billboard's World Chart for a full 34 weeks since it's release date. In May 2002, producer John Wells selected IZ's music for the top-rated television show "ER," to be used for the "Dr. Greene final episode" of the show which was viewed by 50 million people. In 2002, IZ's music was featured in the NBC series "Providence" and was slated to be a part of the Fox series "Pasadena" in the summer. Following the exposure of IZ's music on "ER," IZ was featured in People Magazine with a 30,000,000 circulation and in Parade Magazine with a circulation of 35,900,000 and a readership of 77,600,000. Fans of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's music are purported to include Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dean Koontz, Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffett, Jon Favreau, New York Mets' Benny Ahgbayani, director Martin Brest, producers John Wells and Zalman King, and Japan sumotori's Konishiki, Akebono and Musashimaru.
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