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The Tale of the Man Behind the Timeless Melody “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”

Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole was a musician and composer born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1959. He was not only known for his musical talent but also for his advocacy for human rights. In his music, he highlighted the importance of preserving the natural beauty of the Pacific islands.

His most famous song, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” was born in 1988 when Iz called a local studio in the early morning with an idea for a legendary ballad. The song features his soft male voice accompanied by the soothing melody of the ukulele.

Throughout his career, Iz advocated for Hawaiian values and culture, supporting the independence movement. He began his musical journey with his brother in the group Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau, popularizing Hawaiian music beyond the traditional genre.

“Somewhere Over The Rainbow” was included in Iz’s 1993 album “Facing Future,” which debuted at number 25 on the Billboard charts, expanding his fame globally. The song is a cover of “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz soundtrack and “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.

The song “Somewhere over the rainbow” became a soundtrack for several films such as “Discovering Forrester,” “Meet Joe Black,” “You’ve Got Mail,” “Madagascar,” and “50 First Dates.” It also inspired the Pixar animated short “Lava.”

The Pixar short is a tribute to Iz, as the director was inspired by his music after visiting Hawaii. The story revolves around a Hawaiian volcano in search of love, accompanied by singing and a ukulele, paying homage to the iconic song.

Iz’s famous rendition of the song was dedicated to his wife, Marlene Ah Lo. They had been together since high school and had a daughter, Ceslieanne “Wehi” Kamakawiwo’ole, who also pursued a musical career. His grandchildren, Kiara and Elijah Parker-Kamakawiwo’ole, also inherited his passion for music.

Unfortunately, Iz struggled with obesity for most of his life, weighing 343 kilograms. He faced health challenges that hindered his career and live performances. On June 26, 1997, at the age of 38, Iz passed away due to respiratory problems related to his weight.

After his death, a public ceremony was held in Hawaii to honor Iz, attended by thousands of people. His ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean as a final tribute to the legendary musician.

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