Most people don’t know much about the artist, but listeners are undoubtedly familiar with his famous incredible song…

Israel Kaanoi Kamakawiwole lived up to his name, which was as intimidating as his size.

The legendary song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World,” a medley inspired by the refined, tranquil rhythms of the island life, was written by Kamakawiwole.

The 1993 song, titled “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World,” was on Kamakawiwo’ole’s album “Facing Future” and was used in a number of TV shows, advertisements, and film scores, including “Meet Joe Black” and “Son of the Mask.”

The entry meant far more to Kamakawiwo’ole, also known as Iz, Big Iz, or The Gentle Giant, than just a musical backdrop. With its soothing tenor ukulele and Iz’s exquisite falsetto, his music stood out as a reflection of local Hawaiian culture, which he believed was losing ground to the vacation industry.

In fact, Iz realized at the age of 11 that contemporary Hawaiian music had little in common with traditional Hawaiian music. Four studio albums and four compilations would soon follow, with his most well-known record, “Facing Future,” going double platinum.

All are filled with the calm, sunny ukulele that inspires the state motto’s depiction of island life in tales and anecdotes. It says, “The life of the land is sustained in righteousness.”

Iz’s health would suffer as a result of his obesity; he was about 1,000 pounds when he passed away in June 1997 at the age of 38.

Jon De Mello once heard Iz say:”I realize this seems strange, but I don’t fear death since I think all of these places are only transitory. We Hawaiians live in both the land and the sea, thus this is only one shell. We have it in our blood”.

Watch one of his incredible songs here:

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