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Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

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Hawaii, United States (1959 – 1997)

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole was a popular entertainer and singer in Hawai’i until his death at the age of 38 in 1997. He became famous outside Hawaii when his album Facing Future was released in 1993 with his medley of Over The Rainbow / What A Wonderful World. The song has been included in the end of several movies, including Finding Forrester, Meet Joe Black, 50 First Dates and Fred Claus, the TV show Scrubs, as well as the 2002 season finale of the TV series ER, the end of the season finale of Young Americans and in the very last episode in April 2007 of the UK Drama series Life On Mars and now as the intro to BBC series South Pacific. His song “Hawai’i 78” is used as the entrance music when BJ Penn fights in the UFC.

As his career progressed, Iz was known for promoting Hawaiian rights and Hawaiian independence, both through his music (whose lyrics often stated the case for independence directly) and through his life.

Throughout the latter part of his life, Iz was obese and at one point carried over 750 pounds (340 kg) on his 6’2” frame. He endured several hospitalizations and died of weight-related respiratory illness on June 26, 1997 at 12:18 a.m. at the age of 38. The Hawaii State Flag flew at half-mast throughout the day. Iz lay in state at the Capitol building in Honolulu, where over 10,000 came to pay respects over the course of the first day. His ashes were scattered into the ocean at Makua Beach.

Israel Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’ole was born May 20, 1959 to Henry (aka Tiny) KaleiAloha Naniwa Kamakawiwo`ole Jr. and Evangeline Leinani (Keale) Kamakawiwo`ole.

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