If you’re a fan of Hawaiian music, then you know who I’m talking about. If not, you should become acquainted with Brudda Iz as quickly as possible. Actually, you may already be familiar with his music and not realize it.
“Brudda Iz” was a man called Israel Kamakawiwo`ole. He was a very large man, with the voice of an angel. He did a medley of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and What a Wonderful World that is an extremely beautiful thing to hear. The only instruments were his voice and his ukulele. The song has been used in lots of commercials, and you can hear the part you’d be familiar with by clicking here.
I remember when I finally discovered who sang this song. I was at a Borders browsing the international music section, looking for a Kate Rusby record, when I noticed that they had one of Iz’s records on a listening station. After reading the staff recommendation to listen to the medley, I turned it on and was instantly met with the song from “that commercial” that would get into my mind and not go away. I don’t know why I didn’t buy the record that day, but I didn’t.
Anyway, several of his records are on iTunes now, and I bought his 1993 record called Facing Future two days ago. I’ve listened to Somewhere Over the Rainbow many, many times since then. My son loves it, too. What’s kind of funny is that he does a cover of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” though customized for Hawaii as opposed to West Virginia.
Sadly, Brudda Iz died in 1997 at the way-too-young age of 38. I found this article and this one in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin covering his death and memorial service. The second article says that while his body way lying in state in the capitol rotunda, 10,000 people filed past to pay their respects.