Israel Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’ole was known as “Iz,” “Brother Iz,” sometimes “Big Iz” and even “The Gentle Giant” but it’s his music and soft style of singing that everyone really remembers him for. He was born and raised in Hawaii and thanks to family members, was exposed to Hawaii’s rich musical culture. For example, Big Iz’s uncle Moe Keale was a well-know Hawaiian musician and a major influence on him.
Iz and his brother founded a band that eventually became wildly successful, producing albums that were hits both in Hawaii and on the American mainland. Iz wasn’t just a singer: he was also a master of the ukulele. This Gentle Giant was an innovator, introducing jazz and reggae influences to Hawaiian music while at the same time striving to keep results true to the islands’ traditional musical heritage.
Unfortunately, the Gentle Giant’s size took a serious toll on his health. At one point, he weighed over 750 pounds and this put serious strains on his body, resulting in numerous hospitalizations. In 1997, he passed away and far too soon, only 38 years old.
He lay in state at the capitol building in Honolulu, only the third person to receive the honor and the first who wasn’t a government official. That speaks to the the major contributions Big Iz made to Hawaiian culture during his short life.
Although the world lost Big Iz, his music lives on. In the heartwarming video we’ve posted below, you can experience this unique artist’s strong yet gentle voice. He delivers his beautiful interpretation of a song that you’ve surely heard before, but never like this.
Did the Gentle Giant’s singing melt your heart? Did you shed some tears. Come on, you can admit it! We’d love to hear all about it, so please leave a comment with us at Facebook. Don’t forget to like and share so your friends can discover this wonderful Hawiian musician.