Thirty eight year old Israel Kamakawiwo`ole, born on May 20, 1959, passed away on June 26, 1997 at 12:18 a.m. due to respiratory failure. He was known to many as Brudda Iz. His spirit will live on through music and in the memories of the "Hawaiians and Hawaiians at heart".
Iz was one of few 100% pure Hawaiians living today. His mother was from Ni`ihau and his father was pure Hawaiian. Iz grew up in Makaha. Even though he was large as a youth, he did not let that stop him from enjoying the "hana bata days". He would go surfing on his paipo board, pick limu, and hana`ino with his friends. He loved to play music and his `ukulele was always by his side. People still talk about the jam sessions at the beach that lasted until four in the morning.
He was presented with four Na Hoku Hanohano awards in 1997 for Album of the Year (n Dis Life), Male Vocalist of the Year, Island Contemporary Album and Graphics, and Favorite Entertainer of the Year. The 1996 Na Hoku Hanohano awards ceremony was blessed with an impromptu and moving reunion of Iz and the Makaha Sons.
Brudda Iz played with the Makaha Sons of Ni`ihau for many years until leaving the group in 1993 to venture on his own. Israel went from collecting public assistance to making a six figures. He knew that his health was failing and he wanted to ensure that his family would be secure.
Unfortunately, the writing was on the wall. Iz knew his future (listen to Hawai'i '78 Introduction from Facing Future). His father (worked for the Navy) died of a massive heart attack when he was ten and he lost his brother, Skippy (age 28), the same way. Iz was no different. He was constantly fighting his weight problem. He made some progress a couple of years ago but the weight came back. He was estimated to be around 800 pounds when he died. He is survived by his wife Marlene, his 14 year-old daughter Kawehi, and his remaining sibling, Lydia Kauakahi.
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