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Israel Kamakawiwo'ole Biography

Home > Music > K > Kamakawiwo'ole, Israel > Biography

Birth Name: Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoole
Born: 1959/05/20
Birth Place: Hawaii, USA
Died: 1997/06/26
Genres: Hawaiian

Israel “Iz” Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwo’ole was a Hawaiian musician, born May 20, 1959 in Honolulu, Hawaii. His Hawaiian name means “The Fearless Eyed,”’ which Kamakawiwo’ole was also known by. Kamakawiwo’ole was a skilled ukulele player and incorporated jazz and reggae music into his style. His music remains a prominent influence on Hawaiian culture. Kamakawiwoʻole was born into a musical family and a musical community, he began to play music and sing at the age of 11, with his influences being the Hawaiian entertainers, Peter Moon, Palani Vaughn and Don Ho

While in college Kamakawiwo’ole met fellow musicians, Louis “Moon” Kauakahi, Sam Gray, and Jerome Koko, and formed the group, Makaha Sons of Niʻihau with his brother Skippy. The group toured Hawaii and became a local sensation with their blend of contemporary and traditional Hawaiian music. Over the next 20 years the group released 15 albums together and toured the U.S. The Makaha Sons of Niʻihau’ debut, “No Kristo” arrived in 1976 and their final album with Kamakawiwoʻole, “Hoʻoluana” emerged in 1991.

1990 marked Kamakawiwo’ole debut solo album, “Ka ʻAnoʻi,” which earned the artist two Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts Awards for Contemporary Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year. He rose to fame in 1993 with the release of his album, “Facing Future,” and his rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World.” The success of the track brought the artist mainstream attention and recognition.

In 1994 Kamakawiwoʻole was voted Favorite Entertainer of the Year by the Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts. In 1997 he won Male Vocalist of the Year, Favorite Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year and Island Contemporary Album of the Year. Kamakawiwo'ole became the best-selling Hawaiian musician of all time, but throughout his life he suffered health problems due to his severe obesity. Kamakawiwo’ole died at the age of 38 on June 26, 1997 from heart failure. The Hawaii state flag flew at half-staff that day, in honor of Kamakawiwoʻole's funeral.