By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin

will always be

The revered isle singer, beset
with respiratory and other medical
problems, dies at 38

By Catherine Kekoa Enomoto and
Gregg K. Kakesako

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and his brother Skippy are together in a better place today, a family member said.

Kamakawiwo'ole, the singer and musician who was known as "Iz" and who drew the respect of music lovers and the Hawaiian community, died at 12:18 a.m. today at Queen's Medical Center. The 38-year-old performer had had problems with his weight and related illnesses and had been under care at the hospital for respiratory ailments.

He is survived by his wife, Marlene, and daughter, Ceslieanne "Wehi," 14.

Leialoha Lim Amina, the widow of Skippy, who died at age 28 in 1982, and who is now married to his cousin, Melvin Amina, said this morning that the two brothers have been reunited.

"Oh, we know that. We definitely know that," Amina said. "We (family members) are laughing, 'Oh gosh, the two brothers -- that is a dangerous combination,'" she said of the members of the seminal musical group, Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau.

"We all know that he's in a better place, he is," said Amina."He's resting and he went in a very nice way; for us that's really positive."

Amina said Marlene was at the hospital until 4 or 5 a.m. today and was too exhausted to comment this morning. "Marlene has been with him, I don't know for how many days, over a month, in and out (of the hospital), and lately by his side."

"That sister-in-law (of mine) is such a tower of strength. I know she loved her husband."

Cousin Mel Amina said, "One of the biggest things that we'd like to share on behalf of the family is: Thank you so much for the prayers that were needed and that were sent for Israel and for the family.

‘We all know that he's
in a better place’

Leialoha Lim Amina
family member

"It was his wife who had many decisions that had to be made right there. Prayers came in to help her make the decision and she kept strong until today, this morning. And that is the biggest thing we thank them for -- the prayers," he said.

Jon de Mello, Kamakawiwo'ole's manager, through The Mountain Apple Co., is in New York on business and as of late this morning still had not learned of Kamakawiwo'ole's death.

But other members of the music community remembered Iz as a sharing person.

Lea Uehara, Tropical Music/Poki Records producer said, "We want to send our aloha out to his family. He was an incredible talent and wonderful, giving person.

"He really shared his love of his music and he was a joy to be around, people gravitated toward him and they will perpetuate his music. That will be his legacy," Uehara said

Hawaii promoter Tom Moffatt remembered him not only as a "true professional" but "a man who was very genuine, and always positive."

"His whole life was music, and love for the people of Hawaii," said Moffatt who promoted numerous Kamakawiwo'ole concerts. "There was nothing phony about Iz. Sure he may have been feeling sick at some performances and had to use his oxygen but he always performed well and never made any excuses."

On a more personal level, Moffatt remembered Kamakawiwo'ole's fondness for seeing mega-concerts passing through Hawaii.

"Iz wasn't able to sit in the seats at either the Blaisdell Arena or Aloha Stadium so I would explain to the superstar acts performing just how important Iz was to Hawaii so they would allow (for special arrangements) to accommodate him back stage," Moffatt said. "At Aloha Stadium for the Michael Jackson concert, the last concert he was able to attend, Iz had his truck parked back stage and watched and listened to the entire show.

"It sounds corny, but Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's music will live on for a very, very long time," Moffatt said.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole performs at last year's
Na Hoku Hanohano Awards ceremony.

Gov. Ben Cayetano is in Washington, D.C. on state business and this morning also had not been notified of Kamakawiwo'ole's passing.

However, Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono this morning, after receiving numerous requests from the public for official recognition of Kamakawiwoole's death, announced that Hawaii flags would be flown at half mast the day of his funeral, which has yet to be determined.

This year Kamakawiwo'ole and his CD "n Dis Life" won three awards during the Na Hoku Hanohano presentation. The entertainer watched the June 5 ceremonies from his bed at Queen's, where he was being treated.

He won honors for album of the year, island contemporary album of the year and male vocalist of the year. He also was named favorite entertainer of the year by popular vote.

Kamakawiwo'ole sang with the Makaha Sons of Niihau before setting out on his own in 1993.

He had traveled many roads -- singing, composing, instrumentalizing, producing albums and winning other Na Hoku Hanohano awards. In 1994 he was chosen entertainer of the year.

In May 1996 after a show-stopping reunion performance with his three partners from the Makaha Sons -- John Koko, Jerome Koko and Moon Kauakahi -- Iz said, "I've seen it all, done it all, known it all."

That was a reference to drugs, a habit that he said he had since kicked.

"It ruins you. It's not Hawaiian. It's not about malama-ing (taking care of) those you love," he told the Star-Bulletin in a May 17, 1996, interview.

His plans then called for a stronger weight-control program: less salt, no fat, lots of water, walking, swimming and other exercises.

The Waianae High School dropout planned to get a tutor to earn his GED.

Throughout his career, Iz also had a weight problem that plagued his 6-foot-2-inch frame. At one time he tipped the scales at 757 pounds, and vowed in 1995 to shed 360 pounds.

At one point during his career, he required a forklift to get on stage. Even walking was a chore, and he had to rely on an auxiliary oxygen tank to help him breathe.

Last summer, Kamakawiwo'ole was hospitalized briefly.

Israel's older sister and only surviving sibling, Lydia, is married to Kauakahi. She drove the Makaha Sons to the airport last night to depart for a mainland gig, Amina said.

"Lydia is so broken up right now. She's very, very emotional."

But Iz and Skippy are reunited, Amina said.

"They love each other, of course. And they argue, but when push comes to shove, they always stand together as one -- as any other brothers would," she said.

Funeral services are pending.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
At last year's Na Hoku Hanohano Awards ceremony, Iz was
joined onstage by the members of the Makaha Sons for
an emotional impromptu reunion.

Key points in the life of ‘Iz’

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole is born on May 20, 1959.

Although Iz has been most closely associated with Makaha and Niihau, his roots are in Kaimuki, where his parents met and married, settling at 9th and Kalua streets. He grew up playing in Palolo River and going to Kaimuki Theater. He was in his early teens when the family moved to Makaha and entered the world of music. Israel and his brother Skippy formed the Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau with Louis "Moon" Kauakahi, Sam Gray and Jerome Koko. The best known line-up was Kauakahi, Izzy, John and Jerome Koko.

Izzy's brother Skippy Kamakawiwo'ole dies of a heart attack at age 28 in 1982.

Izzy marries his childhood sweetheart Marlene. They soon have a daughter, Ceslieanne "Wehi."

1985 -- The Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau won Best Traditional Hawaiian Album and Group of the Year at the annual Hoku Awards ceremony.

1987 -- The Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau album "Hoala" won Haku Mele, Traditional Hawaiian Album and Group of the Year Hoku awards.

1991 -- Israel's first solo album "Ka 'Ano'i" won Hoku awards for Contemporary Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year.

1992 -- The Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau's "Makaha Bash 3," on which Israel is included, won Group of the Year and Engineering Hokus. Israel also joined Roland Cazimero, Henry Kapono and Cyril Pahinui in recording the song "Broken Promise," which won Single of the Year.

1993 -- "Ho'oluana," by the Makaha Sons won Hoku Awards for Engineering, Haku Mele, Traditional Hawaiian Album of the Year, Group of the Year and Album of the Year. This was the last album Israel recorded with the Sons. Iz had a history of health problems and hospitalizations because of his weight, at times more than 757 pounds, which had made it difficult to tour and perform with the Sons.

1993 -- "Facing Future" is recorded by a solo Iz, after 17 years performing with the Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau. The album contains less Jawaiian and more traditional Hawaiian music. However, the album is overshadowed by Hapa's strong debut.

1994 -- Voted favorite entertainer of the year by HARA and the public. Krash Kealoha suggested the public vote category.

On Iz's 1995's album "E Ala E," Iz is reunited through studio magic with his late brother Skippy on the title song. Iz's EKG reading forms part of the album art.

1996 -- At the Hoku Awards ceremony, Izzy was singing on stage when he was joined by his ex-bandmates, the Makaha Sons.

1997 -- Izzy's album "n Dis Life" won Album of the Year, Male Vocalist, Island Contemporary Album and Graphics awards. He was also voted Favorite Hawaiian Entertainer by the public. Mountain Apple Co. president John de Mello and Co-producer Ho'omalia accepted the awards for the ailing, hospitalized Iz.

A list of his recordings


"No Kristo" 1976
"Kahea o Keale" 1977
"Keala" 1978
"Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau" 1979
"Mahalo Ke Akua" 1981
"Puana Hou Me Ke Aloha" 1984
"Ho'ola" 1986
"Makaha Bash 3 Live" 1991
"Ho'oluana" 1992


"Ka'ano'i" 1990
"Facing Future" 1993
"E Ala E" 1995
"n Dis Life" 1996

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