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Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of the Judy Garland classic is a global favorite

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole had an incredible energy and spirit, deeply rooted in the Hawaiian concept of mana, that shone through his captivating voice. His musical journey took off when he and his brother wowed a crowd at a graduation party with their heartfelt ukulele performance, setting the stage for Israel’s rise as a beloved figure in Hawaiian music.

His unforgettable medley of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and “What A Wonderful World” was almost an afterthought, recorded in the wee hours, yet it skyrocketed him to fame worldwide. Despite his large size, Israel’s warm nature won over everyone in the studio, allowing him to nail the song in just one take, sitting on a sturdy steel chair made just for him.

This medley, included in his second solo album in 1993, won hearts all over, appearing in ads, movies, and TV shows. It’s reported by EMI that Israel’s version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” is now the most sought-after, even more than Judy Garland’s original. Israel’s unique take, with its heartfelt ukulele play and slight changes to the words and tune, gave a new life to this beloved song.

Sadly, Israel passed away in 1997 at just 38 due to respiratory issues. His farewell in Hawaii was monumental, with his body lying in state at the Hawaii Capitol Building and his ashes scattered at sea from a traditional canoe, as the island paid tribute with a chorus of honking horns.

In Hawaii, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole is remembered not just for his music but also for his advocacy and cultural impact, embodying the true essence

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