And climb the stairs to the beach...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Morning Folks July 9, 2009

Having heard about as much as I can stand about Michael Jackson lately, not that I don't think that he was a talented and important musical figure, because I do think he was that,

but because I am pretty much done with him for now, I thought I'd write about another musician that I only learned of in the past few years...someone who to most of you his name will be new and probably hard to pronounce.

But first, let me just say this: When I was a young teenager, I used to watch old movies all the time. I would rush home from school to watch Boston Movie Time which started at 4:00, I think. They showed some of the great old movies, including those silly lighthearted
Andy Hardy movies, and Cary Grant or Rock Hudson comedies and especially those real romantic tear-jerkers, or purse-snappers that I used to watch with a box of kleenex and a cat on my lap.

Some of my favorites from those days were Splendor in the Grass with
Natalie Wood and Warren Beaty and

Summer Place with Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue.

But when I saw East of Eden and then Rebel Without A Cause I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with James Dean.

I had never been more taken by an actor in the movies before.

But I fell hard for James Dean. I don't remember who told me the news, but it was some time after I had discovered him and watched his movies multiple times that I found out he had died in a car crash in 1955 when I was only 4 years old. Nine years before I first saw him. I was so upset. I cried and cried.

Having just become such a fan of this brilliant, handsome, tortured beautiful actor, only to find out that he would never be making any more movies was devastating. I bought a huge poster of James Dean and put it up in my room when I was just 13. I never went to bed without placing a kiss from my hand to his lips. He went to college with me, too. I think I may still have it somewhere.

Well, I suffered a similar disappointment, although not so intense, when I first found out about the artist Israel (Izzie) Kamakawiwo'ole.

Izzie is the musician who plays a ukelele and sings mixing traditional Hawaiian ukelele with jazz, and reggae. you may be familiar with his rendition of the medley of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Wonderful World. The rhythm and gentle vocals are so hauntingly beautiful that I couldn't hear it enough when I heard it first on some TV commercial or maybe a sound track of a show.

I have added a link (above and over to the right) for you to click on and hear some of his music. (You can click on the spot that says "Play full song here" and start the music, minimize that window and you should be back at the blog window which you can read while you are listening to him.)

Izzie was only 38 when he died in 1997, I learned when I Googled him after learning his name on an NPR show a few years ago. It was hard to learn about his death after just having discovered who was responsible for that soft and soothing combination of Jazz and Reggae version of two songs that we all thought would only be known for the Judy and Sachmo recordings.

Looking at his bio info, he was a huge star in Hawaii, and not just figuratively. He weighed over 700 pounds and he died at such a young age due to his size. And so, there is only a limited body of work by him out there. He does a rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star that I love and another song Bette Midler recorded as In This Life, and Izzie recorded as 'N Dis Life. So, give a listen and see what you think. I bought one of his CDs not long ago. And I might buy another.

Izzie was born in Hawaii, on May 20, 1959. He began his singing career at the age of 11 with his brother Skippy and with a couple of other local musicians later formed the Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau and between 1976 and 1982, they made 15 albums and toured all over Hawaii and the mainland. His brother Skippy died in 1982.

Michael Jackson became an instant star when he was also 11 and joined the Jackson 5. (They changed his age to 8 so he would appear cuter. But he was really 11.) In 1982, Michael recorded Thriller, the biggest selling album of all time. that same year, Izzie buried his brother and continued singing with the Sons.

Izzie released his first solo album in 1991 after a few more years with the Makaha Sons. In 1993 he released the solo album Facing Future, featuring What a Wonderful World and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. In 2005 it went platinum and in 2006, the single was released. That's when I discovered him, and like James Dean it was about 9 years after he had died. In August of 2008, the single had been downloaded 1,348,000 times.

In 1997, Iz received from Hawaii's Academy of Recording Arts awards for Male Vocalist of the year, Favorite Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year, and Island Contemporary album of the Year. He watched the awards show from his hospital bed.

Leaving behind a wife, his childhood sweetheart, and a daughter, a little after midnight on June 26, 1997, Izzie died from weight related respiratory problems. Michael Jackson died June 25, 2009.

Michael's funeral has been something the likes of which we've never seen before when you consider the endless media coverage these past 12 days, the legal battles, the questions surrounding his death, his bizarre and questionable behavior and his strange and clownlike appearance.

Izzie's funeral was very different, from what I can gather. The body of this well respected singer, composer, instrumentalist, producer and full-blooded Hawaiian icon lay in state at Honolulu's capitol in a coffin made of koa wood. Only two other people in Hawaii's history were honored in this way: a former Governor and a Senator. Over 10,000 people attended his funeral. His ashes were scattered into the Pacific ocean. A bust of Izzie has been placed on the lawn of Waianae City Hall on Oahu. He died a man loved by all who met him, whose music moved people in a quiet and positive way and continues to be an influence in Hawaiian music.

I Googled Michael Jackson and then Izzie to compare the two. There were 234,000,000 hits on the Internet for Jackson. There were 554,000 for Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. And now, there will be 554,001. Izzie was as original in what he did as Michael Jackson was. He was just quieter about it. There was no controversy around his behavior or any question about his morals. But, had he taken better care of himself, he probably would have been with us longer. A contemporary of Jackson's whose life was shorter but whose spirit was immense, who was gone too soon, as well.

I wish I had known more about him while he was with us, maybe seen him in person, and I wish we could have heard more from him. But his music goes on and that's quite a legacy. Please click on the link up on the right and enjoy. Leave it on for a while and you'll hear several of his songs, I think you'll like them. Aloha, Iz.

And Aloha all of you. Have a wonderful Day.



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