HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A quarter century ago, the CD “Facing Future” from Israel Kamakawiwo’ole was released. Today, it’s the most successful Hawaii release of all time — lifted by one song cherished around the world.
“Somewhere Over The Rainbow” became a staple of Hawaii music when IZ gave an island twist to Louis Armstrong’s classic, “What a Wonderful World.”
Armstrong’s original song from 1968 was especially popular in Europe. And so is Kamakawiwo’ole’s version, which went double platinum in Germany.
All these years later, the song continues to be played across the globe.
IZ originally recorded a cover of “What a Wonderful World” on his Ka Anoi CD, released in 1990.
It was his first solo album, but he didn’t have the creative control he wanted at the time.
The upbeat take of “What a Wonderful World” in his earlier release would give way to a bittersweet sound for his “Facing Future” cover, released just four years before his death at the age of 38.
For Facing Future, IZ stripped down the music to his effortless voice and signature ukulele.
And he gave the CD a cultural connection.
“He just had that unique voice. that unique style of playing and Israel had the best strum ukulele,” said Jerome Koko, of the Makaha Sons. “He could strum the ukulele. He had the purest strum.”
Mountain Apple Company released “Facing Future" on Nov. 1, 1993, and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” went platinum in the United States.
It also became irresistible to Hollywood.
In fact, IZ’s songs from the “Facing Future” album are credited in more than 50 movies and TV shows, oftentimes punctuating emotional scenes.
Jon de Mello, CEO of Mountain Apple, said the beauty of IZ’s music and melodies was its simplicity.
“We would say this in studios a lot, ‘Let’s just keep it simple, keep it Hawaiian,'" he said.