Sunday, June 26, 2011

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (1959–1997)

Israel Ka'ano'i Kamakawiwo'ole, his older brother Skippy, and three other musicians formed the The Mākaha Sons of Ni'ihau in 1976. Skippy died in 1982 and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole embarked on a solo career in 1990. The Mākaha Sons are still going strong, with 21 albums under their belt. Kamakawiwo'ole broke out with his second album, Facing Future, which became the first Hawaiian album to go platinum on the strength of his popular medley "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World".

At one point, Kamakawiwo'ole was over 750 pounds, so unfortunately a relatively early death was likely. On June 26, 1997, at the age of 38, he died of respiratory illness. The state flag flew at half-mast and he was laid in state in a koa wood coffin in the capitol building in Honolulu, only the third person to be honored in this fashion. Ten thousand people attended his funeral and his ashes were scattered in the ocean at Mākua Beach.

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