Israel “IZ” Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole (Hawaiian pronunciation: [kaˌmakaˌʋiwoˈʔole]; May 20, 1959 – June 26, 1997) was a Hawaiian musician.
He became famous outside Hawaii when his album Facing Future was released in 1993. His medley of “Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World” was subsequently featured in several films, television programs, and commercials.
Through his ukulele playing and incorporation of other genres (such as jazz and reggae), Kamakawiwoʻole remains one of the major influences in Hawaiian music.
Throughout his life, Kamakawiwoʻole was obese and at one point carried 757 pounds (343 kg; 54.1 st) on his 6-foot-2-inch (1.88 m) frame (BMI = 97.05 kg/m²). He endured several hospitalizations because of problems caused by his weight. Kamakawiwoʻole is survived by his wife, Marlene Kamakawiwoʻole, and their daughter, Ceslie-Ann “Wehi”.
The Hawaiʻi State Flag flew at half-staff on July 10, 1997, the day of Kamakawiwoʻole’s funeral. His koa wood coffin lay in state at the Capitol building in Honolulu.He was the third person in Hawaiian history to be awarded this honor, and the only one who was not a government official. Approximately ten thousand people attended the funeral. Thousands of fans gathered as his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean at Mākua Beach on July 12, 1997.
On September 20, 2003, hundreds paid tribute to Kamakawiwoʻole as a bronze bust of the revered singer was unveiled at the Waianae Neighborhood Community Center on Oʻahu. The singer’s widow, Marlene Kamakawiwoʻole, and sculptor Jan-Michelle Sawyer were present for the dedication ceremony.