Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thoughts on Iz's Legacy

Leah from The Mountain Apple Company (Bruddah Iz's publisher) sent us an interesting press release, deomonstrating Iz's enduring popularity:
"Billboard Magazine, the world’s premier music publication, named Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo`ole on three of its year-end charts this week. A rare feat for a Hawaiian artist, IZ placed #3 on the Top World Catalog chart and #8 Top World Album chart for Alone in IZ World, and #5 on the Top World Artist chart for his smash hit 2007 release, Wonderful World.

"This is the 6th year in a row that IZ has been named on Billboard's year-end charts. Since their release, IZ's albums have had an impressive track record for making various charts. As of this week, Facing Future has been on for a total of 557 weeks, Alone in IZ World for 325 weeks, and Wonderful World for 25 weeks. Both Alone in IZ World and Wonderful World have not left the charts since their release, in September 2001 and June 2007, respectively."

And all this 10 years after his death.

By my count, his rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/Wonderful World has been used on least 11 motion picture sountracks, and countless TV commercials. I think this is a wonderful tribute to Iz's legacy.

But it is also a mixed blessing.

Without a doubt, Buddah Iz deserves still more recognition. And importantly, he deserves recognition for more than one song. Which, I fear, the popularity of Rainbow/World may limit him to. My wish is that more people will come to enjoy his ethnic Hawai'ian music, and appreciate him for the important work he did for Hawai'ian culture and the Hawai'ian people.

Iz's Rainbow/World is also a mixed blessing for ukulele performers. It's become the Tiptoe Through the Tulips of the Third Wave. Everyone expects you to play it. And everyone expects that you'll play it exactly as Iz did. (Probably for kids in Hawai'i, it's the new Pearly Shells, to be played ad nauseum at every uke class recital.)

And finally, Iz's eclipsing popularity is a mixed blessing for musicians from Hawai'i. One would hope that his popularity would have led to a "Hawai'ian Invasion," much as the Beatles launched the British Invasion. It may still. There are scores of talented musicians in the Islands that deserve wider play. The good folks at Mountain Apple represent many of them.

So let's all pray that Iz will not be remembered as a "one hit wonder." Or worse, that Rainbow/World will do no more Hawai'i than The Numa Numa Song did for Moldova.

(Thanks, Leah!)

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