‘The spirit of aloha’: IZ changed Hawaiian music forever. His legacy is so much more than that

‘The spirit of aloha’: IZ changed Hawaiian music forever. His legacy is so much more than that
(Image: Archives) (Vorsino, Mary)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Israel Kamakawiwo’ole died on June 26, 1997, at just 38 years old.

(Image: Archive)
(Image: Archive)

His death threw the state into mourning. Hawaii had lost a treasure.

To recognize his incredible contributions to Hawaiian music, IZ was given an honor few others receive: His body laid in state at the Capitol building in Honolulu so all could visit.

For many, that last goodbye was a moving experience.

And a quarter century after the release of his top-selling album, “Facing Future,” IZ continues to be remembered as a cultural icon who not only changed Hawaiian music forever but who genuinely lived Hawaiian values.

“His ultimate legacy is the legacy of the spirit of aloha," said musician Del Beazley.

“The aloha that man had — his heart was even bigger than him. He would give you the shirt off his back. He would do anything to help you. I’ve seen him do that. Help people that needed help."

After memorial services, a long motorcade that included semi-trucks and cars with horns blaring all the way down the west side, IZ’s ashes were taken aboard the Hokulea and brought home to the water — where his brother and uncle and many other family members were already.

All these years later, it’s still an image that moves many to tears.

Musician Josh Tatofi said IZ inspired the current generation of Hawaiian musicians.

“When I cover IZ’s songs on stage, I always try to share what kind of artist he was. He could be funny, make everyone laugh. He could be real sentimental, he’ll take you on a emotional roller coaster and I feel like that is the epitome of an entertainer," Tatofi said.

“He was just being himself. If you watch any of his live videos on YouTube, he was always cracking jokes, always laughing, he was having the time of his life on stage and I feel like that’s how it should be all of the time so I try to portray that every time I play."

Jerome Koko, of the Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau, said IZ could sing simply anything.

“That guy was amazing. Yeah, he could do any song," Koko said.

And he endeared himself to all sorts of people.

“He had different levels of introduction or meeting people. People from the country, Israel would go to that level. People from the city, Israel would go to that level. People from Hawaii Kai, Israel would go to that level also," said musician Mel Amina. “And everybody would freak out on Israel because he was that kind of person.”

Also in this series:

In 1993, IZ struck out on his own (with the help of some friends)

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