HomeFactsHawaiian Singer Israel Kamakawiwoʻole 61th Birthday
Hawaiian Singer Israel Kamakawiwoʻole 61th Birthday
May 23, 2020
There’s no doubt that many, if not all, of you have heard the iconic song Over The Rainbow, originally performed by Judy Garland playing the role of Dorothy in the movie The Wizard of Oz from 1939.
If you’re like me, you probably first heard this song sung not by the original singer, but by another artist—Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, a Native Hawaiian singer, lyricist, and musician who performed the more familiar ukulele version of this song.
Despite his passing back in June of 1997, Kamakawiwo’ole has left an immense legacy not just in Hawaii, but the entire world. To honor this, Google came out with a Doodle celebrating his life as a musician and as a Hawaiian activist on May 20th, the day he would have become 61 years old.
On May 20th, a number of countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Iceland were graced by a Google Doodle (given they open the search engine) dedicated to the late Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. As explained on Google’s Doodle website, the doodle celebrates the 61th birthday of the native Hawaiian ukulele player and activist as a part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
The artist is best known for his melodic and touching rendition of Over The Rainbow, which has struck a chord with the entire world. He was such a phenomenon in Hawaii’s history, dedicating his life to advocacy of Hawaii’s culture and values, Kamakawiwo’ole is often also called the Voice of Hawaii.
“But Israel is so much more than one song; with his band and successful solo career, he redefined popular Hawaiian music through his own unique style and spread his love for the islands around the world. Thank you, Israel, for providing the soundtrack for Hawai’i and for continuing to move hearts around the world through your music,” reads Google’s page dedicated to this now iconic doodle.
There was also a full-length video released honoring Kamakawiwo’ole with imagery and animation prepared by the Rainbow Team at Google Doodle, and the soundtrack—yep, you’ve guessed it—the musician’s rendition of Over The Rainbow playing. The video retells the story of Kamakawiwo’ole, showing how he got his ukulele, his personality, his musical success, and his impact on Hawaiian culture.
The doodle was directed by Sophie Diao, lead artist of the Rainbow Team at Google Doodle. She explained that she wanted to make an animated video about his life and legacy that would complement the song with a gentle and loose visual style. With the help of Dalani Tanahy of Kapa Hawaii, the video was embedded with traditional Hawaiian kapa, adding depth and dimension to the scene transitions, and Gabrielle Ahuli’i, a Native Hawaiian author and librarian, contributed overall ideas and feedback on making this doodle a reality.
“The foundation for the entire Doodle was the amazing phone call that we had with Jon (Israel’s producer) and Marlene (Israel’s widow). They were able to share their favorite stories about him and give so much context about who he was and what he was all about—even down to his favorite flower (plumeria),” said Diao.
She also explained that when she was talking to Jon and Marlene, she asked what Israel would’ve wanted the Doodle to be like, and the wife immediately, without hesitation, said “Happy. Life is beautiful. He loved life.” No matter what, Israel never lost his determination to keep going, and that is felt and seen in the doodle.
Kamakawiwo’ole died at the age of 38 due to respiratory, heart, and other medical problems connected to obesity, leaving a long list of musical and cultural achievements, having spent much of his life promoting Hawaii’s independence and its ideals, becoming the legend that he is today.
The doodle was launched as a part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month