With the build of a Japanese sumo champion and a voice as gentle and smooth as a spear shaken by the wind, Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole has become a worldwide phenomenon thanks to his stirring version of the classic "Somewhere Over the Rainbow".
In 2004 this cover version was featured in the film '50 First Dates' with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, and it has been used in a number of advertising campaigns since. However, it wasn't until September last year that the track was released in Europe as a single, and it has now became a Continental smash. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is currently in its ninth week at No. 1 in France, having previously topped the German charts for twelve consecutive weeks!
Now, with 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow :- The Best of Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole', thirteen of his choice recordings are collected in one package. From the title track through "Wind Beneath My Wings" (once a hit for Bette Midler) and the Willie Dan song 'White Sandy Beach' to the tracks sung in Hawaiian, IZ grooves gracefully in that high male-voice register so typical of his Pacific homeland.
All his life, IZ campaigned for the future of Hawaiian culture and language. He gave widely acclaimed free concerts against a dazzling ocean backdrop. He was a popular hero who met a tragic fate. A childhood injury made movement more difficult as he got older, and he steadily put on weight. Tragically, his obesity reached a point where he could no longer play his instrument in the usual manner. A friendly guitar-maker built him a custom-made instrument that was just right for his proportions.
On the day that IZ died in Hawaii, the local government announced immediate state mourning. Over 10,000 admirers attended the funeral. No one who was there will forget the armada of boats and ships that paid him respect -- footage of the event now features in the official video for "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". In the end, his ashes were scattered over the Pacific and his message began to reach across the ocean.
Having sold close to 5 million albums and 3.5 million singles to date it's clear that the music of Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole still has much to offer. This 'Best of' collection celebrates the life of an extraordinary musician.
1. Over The Rainbow
2. Hawai'i' '78
3. White Sandy Beach
4. Wind Beneath My Wings / He Hawai'i Au
5. Kaulana Kawaihae
6. 'Ulili E
7. Hele On to Kaua'i
8. Ka Pua U'i
10. La 'Elima
11. 'Opae E
12. In This Life
13. What A Wonderful World
The track may be 17 years old and the singer passed away 13 years ago, but Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's moving version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" topped the German singles chart for three weeks in 2010, thanks to a television advert. This compilation celebrates the recent rediscovery of Hawaii's "Gentle Giant," surrounding the title cut with other "Iz" favorites such as "Kaulana Kawaihae," "White Sandy Beach," and "What a Wonderful World."
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