Sunlight Shining Through Cloud

Something Old Is New

Posted on: May 25, 2011

The bad news is that Iz Ka is dead.  The good news is that he was born into my own musical experience just today.  How that happened contains an element of embarrassment, but I don’t care.

The slightest strains of a male voice with ukulele accompaniment came through the waiting room speakers this morning.  I’d had brushes with this tune before, but never fully heard it.  The young girl opposite me was mouthing the words.

“Excuse me,” I said.  “What is this song?”

“I don’t know.  This guy’s been dead forever, but other singers have done this song, too.  Anyways, I like it a lot.”

The search began when I finally got home.  It didn’t take long to discover that the artist was Israel “Iz” Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole.  And the song that has been teasing me for so many years was his version of the iconic Over The Rainbow.

When he died in 1997 at the age of 38, Iz Ka’s coffin lay in state at the capitol building in Honolulu; only the third person to be thusly honored and the only non-politician.  Ten thousand people attended his funeral.  Thousands gathered for the scattering of his ashes into the Pacific.  Just last year, NPR named Iz one of the 50 greatest voices.  How could I have missed this?

Iz Ka’s 1993 Rainbow has been used in movies, TV shows and commercials.  He remains, today, a legend of Hawaiian music and culture eclipsing even the immortal Don Ho.

A treasure has been added to my life, and the more I luxuriate in it, the more it rewards me.  Iz Ka’s minimalist Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World medley can be heard on YouTube, as can many of his original songs.

If new things ever cease to thrill me, even old new things, please, shoot me.

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