Celebrating Two Hawaii Musical Legends

When we first came up with the name, Beat of Hawaii, our thought of course was a newspaper “beat.” Today, we are turning to a musical “Beat” as we remember these two epic Hawaiian musicians.

Willie K (Kahaiali’i) died Monday night after a heroic battle with lung cancer. We were fortunate to have seen him perform many times on Kauai at the County Fair, the local community college, and a private concert. His vocal range was impressive from deep bass to soprano. Not only did he sing contemporary and traditional Hawaiian music, but Willie also included opera in his repertoire and blues and rock. He has left his mark on Hawaii forever.

Another Hawaii legend remembered today is Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole also known as IZ. Today would have been his 61st birthday and Google is remembering with a doodle that honors him worldwide. IZ died young at age 38. His music lives on and was part of the Hawaiian Renaissance. First as part of the group, the Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau, and then as a solo artist with the release of Facing Future. Who can ever forget his rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow together with What a Wonderful World? His music went beyond that and carried a message that promoted Hawaiian rights and independence. It would be interesting to know his feelings today about the Hawaii tourism industry. During his life, he believed it had lowered the status of the Hawaiian people.

Were you ever able to see either Willie K or IZ perform?

9 thoughts on “Celebrating Two Hawaii Musical Legends”

  1. There isn’t any current music genre that envelopes my heart and soul as much as Hawai’ian music does. I have come to DEEPLY love and appreciate Slack Key or kī hōʻalu and all variants of Hawai’ian music. It is with the deepest sadness that I learned of Willie K’s recent passing and I feel so fortunate to having seen him live a few times. RIP Willie K and Mahalo for your music and spirit.

  2. We were blessed to have seen IZ at a Shriner’s Event in 93. His melodic voice soothed our anxiety having just coming out of the surgery for my youngest. IZ captivated all and we have became fans for life. Miss you IZ. AND…R.I.P Willie K….

  3. Two great talents gone too soon. We were lucky to see Willie K at a Christmas concert at KCC. Hearing him sing Ave Maria was magical.

  4. Somewhere Over the Rainbow and What a Wonderful world are both very special songs to me and my family. I will never forget the first time I heard Brother Iz singing that song. We were visiting Maui many years ago and going out on a snorkeling boat with our children and my youngest came and crawled into my lap and said, “Mommy, that’s the Birds and Rainbow Song that you love”. It was so sweet and a memory I will cherish forever. We still listen to Iz’ music and remember our wonderful times in Hawaii. Thank you for recognizing Iz on his birthday and bringing a smile to my face!

  5. His ‘Somewhere over the rainbow/it’s a wonderful life’ rendition was our wedding song In 2010, we’re heading back on late October for our 10 year anniversary, God willing.

  6. So sad about Willie K. He had the greatest range of voice – singing opera as well as yodeling, and doing it with so much fun. He would tell stories about Dionne Warwick, Amy Gilliom, TSA agents on Maui, and his travel experiences around the world.

    Brother Iz had a voice like silk. So natural.

    They truly are our island music legends.

  7. We were lucky enough to see Willie K a few years ago at the Moana Surfrider. He was doing a show on the patio one evening. He was amazing!

    My condolences to all of his fans, friends and family!

  8. We were blessed to see Iz many years ago as the half time performer at a Pro Bowl Game in the 90’s.
    We continue to listen to his music today and get either smiles when listening to Hawaiian Superman or remember family members when we hear him sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

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