Somewhere Over The Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwo`ole
On May 20, 1959, in the final days of Hawai’i’s territorial era, three months before the Hawaiian Islands would become America’s 50th state, a baby was born in Honolulu’s historic Kuakini hospital whose voice would unite the Hawaiian people and be heard all over the world. He was the third child of Evangeline Keale Kamakawiwo’ole, a Hawaiian woman born on Ni’ihau, and Henry “Tiny” Kaleialoha Naniwa Kamakawiwo’ole, a part-Hawaiian born on O’ahu. His proud parents knew he would be special even before he emitted his first bold vocals.
They named him Israel Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’ole. In Hawaiian his last name translates “the fearless eye, the bold face.” Tiny and Evangeline would spoil Israel far more than his brother and sisters; he could do no wrong. This native son was a rare breed, an almost pure Hawaiian of unusual lineage; he could trace his ancestral roots to an island that even today, remains the most Hawaiian of all, the so-called “forbidden” island of Ni’ihau.
His first taste in performing was at Steamboats in Waikiki, where his father was a bouncer and his mother was the manager. He got to meet everybody and spend time with Gabby Pahinui and the Sons of Hawai’i. As early as 10 years old, they would call him up onstage with his ‘ukulele. Israel won the admiration and praise of his elders. All the musicians thought Israel was something special. They knew someday he would be somebody. For now, they called him “the kid with the ‘ukulele.”
Israel, now in his early teens, resisted a move to the country. Israel had no idea, nor could he have ever known, how the move to O’ahu’s Wai’anae Coast, would cause fundamental change in his life. In Mãkaha, he would form a band that would rock the Islands.
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