Israel Kamakawiwo'ole is Hawaii but not forgotten

Chris Mugan
Friday 07 January 2011 01:00 GMT

The song "Over the Rainbow" has already served as a calling card for one deceased artist, and now it is helping to promote another singer who died early.

In 1998, Eva Cassidy's compilation Songbird topped the UK charts, thanks to interest generated by her aching cover of the Wizard of Oz tune. Now Decca is hoping the same can be achieved for Hawaiian-born Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, or "Iz" to his growing number of fans.

Iz was already a star in the isolated Pacific state, but only earned international fame after his death in 1997. Chronically obese, he died aged 38; 10,000 islanders paid their respects as he lay in state. The gentle giant was a local hero thanks to his advocacy of Hawaiian rights and self-determination, though it was a disarming cover of "Over the Rainbow" on ukulele that brought him wider fame. The version was used on anything from romcom You've Got Mail to the TV drama Lost, eventually earning a platinum disc in 2005. Now the track has had a further bounce in Germany where it appeared on a TV ad and has been No 1 since October.

Iz's take on "Rainbow" has been released in the UK before, but failed to crack the Top 40, so Decca is taking the Cassidy route, using it as the title for a compilation that features a similarly sweet version of "What a Wonderful World" and tunes the artist wrote.

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is out on Decca

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in