Israel Kamakawiwo’ole was born in Honolulu in May 1959 and throughout the later part of his life became obese. At one point IZ carried 757 pounds on his 6-foot 2-inch frame. He endured ill health caused by his weight and sadly died aged 38 on June 26 1997. As his body lay in state, an estimated 10,000 filed past his casket to bid the gentle giant aloha.
In 1990, Kamakawiwo'ole released his first solo album Ka 'Ano'i, which won awards for Contemporary Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year from the Hawai'i Academy of Recording Arts (HARA). Facing Future was released in 1993 by The Mountain Apple Company. It featured his most popular song, the medley "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World", along with "Hawai'i 78", "White Sandy Beach of Hawai'i", "Maui Hawaiian Sup'pa Man", and "Kaulana Kawaihae". Facing Future debuted at #25 on Billboard Magazine's Top Pop Catalogue chart. On October 26, 2005, "Facing Future" became Hawaii's first certified platinum album, selling more than a million CDs in the United States, according to figures furnished by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Through his Ukulele playing IZ remains one of the most influential artists in Hawaiian music over the last 20 years.