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This is a minor update (replacing some videos that were no longer working and adding a few comments) of my first Music Diary I posted. I still feel this dude transcends genres and really, really sounds great even though the basic music isn't what I THOUGHT was my style.

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was a kick ass Hawaiian singer from the 1970's until his death at age 38 from complications of obesity in 1997. Amazing voice and amazing person.

Here's the big man singing (in an amazingly eerie yet beautiful style) "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," one of his top songs:

As someone who was raised by a mother who listened to Don Ho, THIS guy strikes me as a really genuine performer and just a nice guy. I mean this is what I grew up thinking Hawaiian music was all about:

But Israel Kamakawiwo'ole  is something VERY different from the tiny bubbles of Don Ho. He is the real deal and is so much more amazing. Here is a song I hated until the movie Whispers of the Heart made me fall in love with I was primed to love Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's version:

If I may just add the Whisper of the Heart versions (Japanese/Nihongo first then English/Eigo):

Nihongo de:

Country Roads from 4815162342 on Vimeo.

English version:

(In the movie, which I HIGHLY recommend, the scene is a perfect illustration of a teenager discovering her worth, and it is perfectly done in all its awkward beauty)

And for those who REALLY know the history behind Whispers of the Heart and of West Tokyo where it takes place, preservation of Totoro's Forest should mean something to you. It is far from Hawaii...but it is an important preservation effort.

Who could imagine that the relatively insipid John Denver could spark such a cross-cultural connection and link to the loss and/or preservation of the last natural areas near West Tokyo? But I now love the song thanks not to John Denver himself, but thanks to what Japanese and Hawaiians have done with his song.

But even more than Iz's cover of a Judy Garland song, I love his real Hawaiian songs

The sound flows so smoothly...and I don't normally go for smooth, preferring Tom Waits' gravelly sound or a hard punk sound. But Israel Kamakawiwo'ole catches me in a way that most smooth singers can't. Again, I think it is the genuine nature of his sound. It doesn't sound contrived or popularized, and it touches on the roots of a Native culture that Don Ho kind of trivialized, in my view.

And almost his last concert, he speaks directly to the Hawaiian culture in their language...telling them to Wake Up...and it is clear from his appearance that he was not long for the world, and yet his dedication to his fans and his culture are clear:

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Comment Preferences

  •  Another one taken too soon. (10+ / 0-)

    Good music isn't created in a board room, a marketing session, or a focus group.

    Thanks for the tribute.

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 01:15:58 PM PST

  •  I was in the 7-11 yesterday and Iz's cover of (8+ / 0-)

    Somewhere Over The Rainbow came on. I stood inside and listened to it until it was over. I've been singing it in my head since. Lovely song. Miss him.

    "I'm gonna dance between the raindrops"

    by IB JOHN on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 01:25:04 PM PST

  •  It is a pleasure to listen (7+ / 0-)

    to the purity of Israel voice.

  •  Love Iz (8+ / 0-)

    Love his music, love Hawai'i.

    Lovely tribute, thank you.  Did you know the state flags were flown at half-mast after he died?  (It was on Jeopardy! last night, must be true)

    -6.25 -5.3 If I ever leave this world alive The madness that you feel will soon subside...

    by dansk47 on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 01:30:30 PM PST

  •  I only even heard Iz first a couple of years ago (5+ / 0-)

    on a visit to Hawai'i.  It is very interesting how the Hawai'ian music played on the radio there spans the generations in its audience and popularity.  I also noticed moe Jamaican cross-fertilization going on in the music, but I though it was a good thing.


    I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

    by tom 47 on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 01:37:46 PM PST

  •  Thjat version of "Somewhere" (6+ / 0-)

    never fails to move me.

    Thanks :)

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    Who is twigg?

    by twigg on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 01:45:42 PM PST

  •  Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mole333, LinSea

    Thank you for such a lovely tribute to Bruddah Iz.  

    When the solution is simple, God is answering. Albert Einstein

    by Carol in San Antonio on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 04:39:22 PM PST

  •  I love Bruddah IZ (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LinSea, mole333

    He has been my favorite singer for a few years, since I first heard him on NPR's 50 great voices. I cried when I learned that he was dead. There is a free app you can download that has some photos and news about him and his discography. I also ordered one of his famous fish hook t-shirts from the company that sells his records.

    It is amazing how much love of his music has spread throughout the entire world? At one point in 2011 or 2012, he had the number one song in Germany and sparked a huge interest in the ukelele. Some where Over the Rainbow is great, but he has many other fabulous songs you can download on iTunes.

    If you have never heard Hawaii '78 or White Sandy Beach or Starting All Over Again, I highly recommend them. He also did a touching cover of Wind Beneath My Wings, and Bette Midler is said to be a fan.

    He was a huge man, in height, girth, and heart and the more time passes, the more he is remembered because the more people encounter his music.

    I had not listened to his music for awhile when I found myself one day in June playing all his songs on my iPod during my commute and looking for any news about him that might have been posted. I read a story about his daughter and grandchildren and started crying. I then came across an article on his death and realized it was the anniversary of his death. It was an odd coincidence.

    Anyway, it is rare that someone can take a classic and remake it so that it is his or her own, and IZ did that. He was supposedly drunk and recorded it in the middle of the night on a rash impulse, which is why the words are messed up.

    His parents, brother, and at least two sisters (or maybe it was two brothers and one sister) all died young of complications related to severe morbid obesity. I did some research on this in the medical literature, and apparently people of Polynesian descent in Hawaii (and many other countries) have a very high rate of super obesity and metabolic diseases and premature death. One theory is that when they set out in their boats to discover distant islands, those who had the most efficient metabolism were most likely to survive the journey. Studies suggest Polynesian people in Hawaii and elsewhere burn calories at a much slower rate, and the switch from their native diet to a modern Hawaiian diet that includes a lot of white rice and to a less active lifestyle has resulted in tremendous rates of obesity.

    Anyway, thank you for bringing IZ to everyone's attention and reminding me that it's time to hit that playlist again.

    We Won't Let Republicans Replace Medicare with GOP Vouchercare!

    by CatM on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 05:31:21 PM PST

    •  Samoa (0+ / 0-)

      I lived a few months in the island nation then called "Western Samoa" (to distinguish it from American Samoa) but is now just called Samoa. Most traditional of the Polynesian islands. Spent part of my time in a village with no electricity...learned to drink the local beer warm. GREAT beer...thanks to a period of German rule where they started a local brewery (Vailima).

      Young Samoans tended to be thin because they work really hard on the family gardens (taro, breadfruit, mangoes, etc) and fishing. They eat HUGE amounts of food, mostly very starchy. Not so much fat but lots of starch.

      When they start working less they tended to get obese, I guess eating a lot but not working so hard.

      Then all the old people were thin. Because the obese people don't seem to live until old age.

      I was not such a fan of the food there other than the fruit which was wonderful. Taro was kind of nasty to me and breadfruit was boring (though once I fried it up in butter and THEN it was great!). Good seafood but not prepared quite to my tastes. Was still a great experience living there.

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

      by mole333 on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 10:01:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A uke rec. n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LinSea, mole333

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