Today’s Google Doodle is honouring the life of Hawaiian ukulele player Israel ‘Iz’ Kamakawiwo’ole.

Born on May 20, 1959, in Honolulu, Israel Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’ole (Kah-MAH-kah-VEE-voh-OH-lay) began playing the ukulele at age 11 with his brother and cousin. In 1976, the teenage Iz formed the band Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau with his brother and three friends, playing a blend of contemporary and traditional styles. They toured Hawaii and the mainland US and released 15 successful albums.

Today’s Doodle honours his life and the lives of the hundreds of people he saved.

Here’s all you need to know about Israel Kamakawiwoʻole.

Who was Israel Kamakawiwoʻole?

You might not recognise his name, but his music is recognised worldwide.

The Hawaiian born Iz was a musician, singer and songwriter whose ukulele medley of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World reinvented a timeless classic.

His uplifting version of the tune has appeared on film soundtracks, TV programmes and commercials – the musician is so revered within the sphere of Hawaiian music, he’s known as the “voice of Hawaii”.

Today Google is celebrating what would have been his 61st birthday, with an animated Doodle video portraying his life, in honour of Asian Pacific American Heritage month.

Israel Kamakawiwoʻole pictured in 2005 

The animated Somewhere Over the Rainbow video features pieces of kapa, traditional Hawaiian fabric made from plant fibres and decorated with linear designs created with dyes extracted from native Hawaiian plants.

Iz first recorded the ballad in 1988 during an impromptu recording session – and it took just a single take.

Besides the master recording, Iz held the only copy, but after five years, a recording engineer played the song to a record producer, who added it to one of Iz’s albums.

Soon after it became an international hit, reaching No. 12 on Billboard’s Hot Digital Tracks chart in 2004. The joyful tune appeared on the soundtracks of movies such as Meet Joe Black, Finding Forrester and 50 First Dates.

Sadly Iz died in 1997, aged 38, but has forever touched the world with his emotional, ukulele-backed version of the classic song.



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