On May 20, 1959, in the final days of Hawai’i’s territorial era, three months before the Hawaiian Islands would become America’s 50th state, a baby was born in Honolulu’s historic Kuakini hospital whose voice would unite the Hawaiian people and be heard all over the world. He was the third child of Evangeline Keale Kamakawiwo’ole, a Hawaiian woman born on Ni’ihau, and Henry “Tiny” Kaleialoha Naniwa Kamakawiwo’ole, a part-Hawaiian born on O’ahu. His proud parents knew he would be special even before he emitted his first bold vocals.
They named him Israel Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’ole. In Hawaiian his last name translates “the fearless eye, the bold face.” Tiny and Evangeline would spoil Israel far more than his brother and sisters; he could do no wrong. This native son was a rare breed, an almost pure Hawaiian of unusual lineage; he could trace his ancestral roots to an island that even today remains the most Hawaiian of all, the so-called “forbidden” island of Ni’ihau.
His first taste in performing was at Steamboats in Waikiki, where his father was a bouncer and his mother was the manager. He got to meet everybody and spend time with Gabby Pahinui and the Sons of Hawai’i. As early as 10 years old, they would call him up onstage with his ‘ukulele. Israel won the admiration and praise of his elders. All the musicians thought Israel was something special. They knew someday he would be somebody. For now, they called him “the kid with the ‘ukulele.”
Israel, now in his early teens, resisted a move to the country. Israel had no idea, nor could he have ever known, how the move to O’ahu’s Wai’anae Coast would cause fundamental change in his life. In Makaha, he would form a band that would rock the islands.
The chance encounter of two truant schoolboys (Israel and John Koko) at the beach was the beginning of a band everyone would soon know as the Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau. The Makaha Sons went on to record 21 albums, win many Na Hoku Hanohano Awards and change Hawaiian music history.
In 1993, following a successful run as one of the members of the Makaha Sons of Ni‘ihau, IZ decided to venture out on his own. He reached out to me because of my success as a producer of contemporary Hawaiian music giants like the Brothers Cazimero, Brother Noland, Rap Reiplinger and many more. Our meeting would set the stage for the rest of Israel’s career. IZ made it known that he wanted a solo career and wanted my help to chart this new course in the music industry. IZ felt that my track record as a producer and the strength of the Mountain Apple Company organization perfectly suited his needs. Our relationship blossomed and for the rest of his life, I was IZ’s producer, confidant and musical mentor. Our first release was his remarkable solo CD Facing Future.
The production focused on Israel’s stunning voice and launched his incredibly successful solo recording career. Facing Future was followed with the release of another five remarkable recordings, E Ala E (1995), N Dis Life (1996),IZ In Concert: The Man and His Music (1998),Alone In IZ World (2001) andWonderful World (2007). Facing Future remains the top selling Hawaiian music album in the world. In 2002 it was certified gold by the RIAA, a first for a Hawaiian record label. In 2005, it was certified platinum for sales of over 1 million units. Then Alone In IZ World was certified gold. With each passing year, IZ’s presence in the music industry and the sales of his recordings continue to grow despite the trends that surround the industry. An amazing story about an amazing man, the man referred to by some as the “Hawaiian Suppaman”. While IZ has always been revered in Hawai‘i, his worldwide influence came later. IZ’s music first gained national attention in the mid 1990’s. Billboard Magazine writer Doug Reece writes: “In 1997 there were only seven weeks when Hawaiian musicians–citizens of a state whose population is a fraction of all others–did not appear on the Top World Music Albums chart. Even more impressive was the individual tally scored by cherished, recently deceased vocalist Israel Kamakawiwo`ole. His (most recent) album N Dis Life ran a remarkable 39 weeks on that chart…” Listeners around the world were becoming aware of the power of the music, including those involved in film and television. These great fans were insistent in their desire that IZ’s music be used in their projects. The more IZ was exposed to the world, the more fans responded. Universal Films contacted The Mountain Apple Company about an exclusive license to use IZ’s recording, “Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World” in the movie “Meet Joe Black”.
The call was the result of director Martin Brest’s (“Scent Of a Woman”, “Beverly Hills Cop”), love of this remarkable version. Next, eToys.com adopted IZ’s music for a series of national television commercials. Israel’s sweet voice was matched perfectly to these television commercials, which celebrate the innocence and beauty of childhood and the discovery of a world filled with wonder.
This success prompted feature articles in the Washington Post and TV Guide. More exposure led to more fans, and the fans were truly passionate in their support. In December 2000, best-selling author Dean Koontz honored Israel in the front of his new book “From The Corner of His Eye”. Koontz’s quote pays tribute to the power of this music: “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 in another best-selling book “One Door Away From Heaven” released in December 2001 by saying: “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 areFacing Future,In Dis Life, and E Ala E.” Once a presence as large as IZ gets moving, it’s very tough to stop, and it didn’t. The momentum continued into late 2000, as once again his music was featured in a major motion picture, “Finding Forrester” starring Sean Connery and directed by Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting”). The only vocal track included on the film’s soundtrack with Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman and Bill Frisell, it exposed IZ to jazz fans world-wide, and respond they did. In July 2001, IZ’s music hit the big screen once again, 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 CD Alone In IZ World, which debuted #1 on Billboard’s World Chart and #135 on Billboard’s Top 200. This CD is one of only 12 to ever debut at #1 on the World Chart. It has remained consistently in the Top 10 of Billboard’s World Chart until it was required to move to the world catalog charts where it has remained a fixture ever since its release. Indeed, Facing Future has remained on the World Chart for an astonishing 493 weeks, with Alone In IZ World staying there for 300 weeks (all in the top 5), each with no hint of faltering. To this day, IZ’s music is still on Billboard’s charts. Facing Future is bearing down on 700 weeks in the top 10 of the World Chart, Alone In IZ World has been on the chart for 423 weeks and Wonderful World enjoys 150 weeks on the chart (at the end of 2009). The release of Alone In IZ World garnered articles in the prestigious Washington Post and Chicago Tribune and again, more fans followed. In May 2002, producer John Wells selected IZ’s music for the top-rated television show “ER”. Wells placed it in the season finale that was viewed by 50 million people. Following the exposure of his music in “ER,” IZ was featured in People Magazine and Parade Magazine.
Again, more exposure brought more loyal and passionate fans. The result was even further exposure when the music was used in the hit film “50 First Dates” starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The music served to highlight the final emotional scene, drawing raves from viewers. Immediately following the release of the film, “Over the Rainbow” hit the R&R (Radio & Records) Adult Contemporary Chart as well as the Billboard AC Single Chart, climbing steadily as AC radio stations across the country started adding the song to their playlists. The ability of Israel’s vocal to make an immediate connection with the listener has made him a favorite of major advertising agencies. His recordings are featured in commercials throughout the world, which remain in rotation because of Israel’s unique ability to connect. For reasons that cannot be adequately explained or understood, people feel good when they hear his voice, they feel safe and they feel happy. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from. It doesn’t matter whether you are a truck driver or a movie star. That indefinable unique characteristic which is at the core of all great music burns bright in Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s voice. It is for that reason that Hawaiians worldwide consider him their standard bearer. It is why his fans include Bette Midler, Adam Sandler, Jim Carey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sean Connery, Drew Barrymore, Dean Koontz, Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffett, Jon Favreau, New York Mets’ Benny Agbayani, director Martin Brest, producers John Wells and Zalman King, Japan sumotori Konishiki, Akebono and Musashimaru, and people of good will throughout a world sorely in need of it. What a Wonderful World, indeed it IZ.
Jon de Mello,
Israel’s producer and CEO of The Mountain Apple Company
Israel was a powerful live performer, as is captured on this recording released in 1998. This album has tracks culled from various performances between 1993 and 1997, and emits the friendly vibe that characterized him. The connection that IZ had with his audience is evident as he introduces his songs, makes jokes and speaks to the audience as if they were family. Iz in Concert features live versions of earlier studio recordings, plus never before released live performances and spoken word. A true intimate experience with IZ, this album highlights the stunning purity of his voice. His most beloved songs are here, from “Kaleohano” to the state anthem “Hawai`i Aloha”. Iz in Concert is a rare glimpse into the real man and his music.
01 Ahi Wela
02 E Ku`u Morning Dew
06 “This Hawaiian Man” Intro
08 E Ala E
09 Hene Hene Kou Aka
10 Lover of Mine
11 White Sandy Beach
12 `Opae E
13 n Dis Life
14 Maui Hawaiian Sup’pa Man
15 Hawai`i ’78
16 Hawai`i Aloha
Facing Future is arguably IZ’s most popular album. Released in 1993, to this day it remains the best-selling album of all time by a Hawaiian artist. It reached Platinum status in 2005, selling more than one million copies, the only Hawaiian music album to do so. The album’s sales are driven not only by its popularity with Hawaiian audiences, but also by its appeal around the world. The delicate medley “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” has been licensed for use in movies, television shows and commercials, both in the United States and abroad. Although Facing Future was actually IZ’s second solo album, it was this recording that introduced millions of people worldwide to Israel’s stunning talent. Also including the beloved tune “White Sandy Beach” and the bookends of “Hawai`i ’78”, Facing Future is the essential soundtrack to Hawaii.
01 Hawai’i ’78 Introduction
02 Ka Huila Wai
04 Panini Pua Kea
05 Take Me Home Country Road
06 Kuhio Bay
07 Ka Pua U’i
08 White Sandy Beach of Hawai’i
09 Henehene Kou’aka
10 La ‘Elima
11 Pili Me Ka’u Manu
12 Maui Hawaiian Sup’pa Man
13 Kaulana Kawaihae
14 Somewhere Over The Rainbow / What A Wonderful World
15 Hawai’i 78
YOU MAY ALSO
E Ala E was Israel’s third solo recording, released in 1995. Several of the songs on this album are slightly political in nature, as IZ became the voice for his people and a champion of his Hawaiian culture. There are also lighter Hawaiian ballads, and E Ala E even features a reunited duet with his deceased brother Skippy, thanks to studio technology. IZ was motivated to carry on Skippy’s mission of perpetuating the spirit of the sovereignty movement, and the title track “E Ala E” became the anthem of solidarity among the Hawaiian people. There is also a whimsical side of IZ captured on this album with “Theme from Gilligan’s Island”. Perhaps the final track “A Hawaiian Like Me” says it all: there will never be another Hawaiian like IZ.
Alone in IZ World is a collection of unplugged performances, previously unreleased recordings, and alternate versions of IZ’s best loved songs. Released four years after his death, this album debuted at #1 on the Billboard World Music chart, and charted in the Top 5 of the year-end Top World album chart for three years straight (2006, 2007 and 2008.) The album cover photo is an iconic image of IZ, floating freely in the water and smiling brightly. The album showcases Israel’s solo career, and is a fresh new take on many IZ favorites.
As the 10th anniversary of Israel’s passing approached, producer Jon de Mello remembered IZ’s wish to someday record with a full orchestra and was inspired. De Mello surrounded IZ’s original voice and ukulele tracks with newly recorded lush string arrangements on 12 of his most beloved songs. The orchestral backgrounds allow IZ’s soft and smooth vocals to remain the true star of the album. Wonderful World debuted at #1 on the Billboard World chart and remained in the top five for two years. It truly is a loving memorial to this gentle giant.
N Dis Life is the final studio recording of original music before Israel’s death in 1997, and reached #3 on the Top World Music Album chart. The songs span a wide range including gorgeous ballads, traditional Hawaiian, and uplifting island rhythms. N Dis Life won a total of five awards at the 1997 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, Hawai`i’s equivalent of the Grammys, including Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, and Favorite Entertainer of the Year. IZ’s gentle vocals and ukulele are perfect in the classic “Hi`ilawe”, and “In This Life” is a poignant and touching tune for his final recording. IZ’s spirit truly shines through on this album.
Columbia Pictures “MEET JOE BLACK”
Universal Pictures “FINDING FORESTER”
Columbia Pictures “PINEAPPLE EXPRESS”
Sony Pictures “50 FIRST DATES”
Warner Bros. Pictures “FRED CLAUS”
New Line Cinema “SNAKES ON A PLANE”
New Line Productions“SON OF THE MASK”
Warner Bros. Pictures “THE BIG BOUNCE”
Walt Disney Pictures & Television “RIP GIRLS”
Artisan Entertainment “MADE”
TriStar Pictures “RACE THE SUN”
Triumph Enterprises “IN GOD’S HANDS”
Chrome Dragon Films “LANI LOA”
David L. Brown Productions “SURFING FOR LIFE”
Party Wave, Inc. “OFF THE LIP”
Sangemini Water ITALY
OTP Bank CROATIA
Sony Handycam CHINA
Zala Water SLOVENIA
OTP Bank HUNGARY
GALP Energia PORTUGAL
Kelloggs Rice Krispies
Fiat Chroma ITALY
Norway Lotto NORWAY
Imaginarium Toys SPAIN
Hawai’i Visitor & Convention Bureau
Menzis Health Insurance NETHERLANDS
Maui Visitors Bureau
Hallmark Greeting Cards
Roua Muntilor Mineral Water ROMANIA
Lynx Axe 24/7 GREAT BRITAIN
Dulux Paint AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND
Smithsonian “Kaho’olawe” exhibit
Japan Travel Bureau
ITT Sheraton Hotels
Aston Hotels & Resorts
Sakata Seed JAPAN
Agrana Marketing AUSTRIA
Infinity Golf Classic
Kenai Air Hawai’i
COLD CASE #3T6365 Warner Bros. Television
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER: Inside Sumo
“STRUMMER THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN” Nitrate Strummer, Ltd – Great Britain
“LIFE ON MARS” BBC – UK
“OPRAH & GALYLE’S BIG ADVENTURES 1” Harpo Productions
“LAS VEGAS” NBC Television
“COLD CASE” Warner Bros. Television
“CAN’T BUY ME LOVE” Great Britain
“HAWAI’I” NBC Television
“INSIDE THE NFL” HBO
“ER” Warner Bros. Television
“GIDEON’S CROSSING” Touchstone Television
“THE BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL” Bell-Phillip
“PARTY OF FIVE” Columbia Pictures Television
“YOUNG AMERICANS” Columbia Pictures
“LENS OF DARKNESS, LENS OF LIGHT” National Geographic Special
“WIND ON WATER” NBC Television
“PICKET FENCES” Twentieth Century Fox Films
“BAYWATCH” Baywatch Production Company
“LITTLE GIRLS IN PRETTY BOXES” Victor
“HAWAIIAN LIGHTHOUSES” PBS Special
“THEN THERE WERE NONE” – Documentary
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