Bruddah IZ Takes Us Somewhere ‘Over the Rainbow’

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Bruddah IZ was one of those singers who could easily light up a room with his melodic voice; he added color to the world with the hit, “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World,” and brought joy to everyone he met with his jolly self and that overly-contagious smile.

CDs autographed by Bruddah IZ before his passing in 1997.

Although he’s no longer with us today, Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoole still remains a very h3 influence in Hawaiian music. His legacy lives on through films, television programs, commercials and digital music stores. Unquestionably, he is the best-selling Hawaiian musician of all time and the most loved, too. More than 10,000 fans attended his funeral, as the Hawaii state flag flew at half-staff the very same day. His koa coffin lay in state at the Hawaii State Capitol, an honor usually only awarded to select government officials.

From an early age, it became apparent to Bruddah IZ’s parents just how much music moved their youngest son. He learned to play the ‘ukulele by 11 years old and absorbed every bit he could when listening to classic Hawaiian entertainers like Don Ho and Peter Moon. The move with his family to Makaha, on the west side of Oahu, turned out to also be a pivotal moment in his music career. It’s where he met fellow members-to-be of the Makaha Sons of Niihau, a talented band that blended contemporary and traditional styles of Hawaiian music. They eventually released 15 albums and toured Hawaii and the U.S.

By the 1990s, IZ released a few award-winning solo albums that included his most popular songs, such as “Hawaii 78” and “Maui Hawaiian Sup’pa Man.” His “Facing Future” album became Hawaii’s first certified platinum album. Then, in 1997 – the year he passed – IZ received four prestigious Na Hoku Hanohano awards (Male Vocalist of the Year, Favorite Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year and Island Contemporary Album of the Year). Unfortunately, IZ watched the ceremony from his hospital room. He had already been hospitalized several times due to obesity-related health problems, which were also the causes of his death.

Today, fans remember the singer who not only helped pave the way for other Hawaiian music-hopefuls but also revived the genre completely, sharing his soothing voice with millions across the globe.

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