I happened upon this theme while geeking around with an iPhone app. While looking for a way to create custom ringtones, I found, “Ringtone Converter” on iTunes. This is a free app, designed to make 30 second ringtones from any song in your iTunes library. Some of the songs don’t load, though most of them do, and I roamed through my library, auditioning songs as potential ring tones until I came to a clear winner – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
As I listened to IZ’s voice, I looked up the song on Google. It was written by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg in 1939, for The Wizard of Oz, and almost cut from the movie by MGM CEO Louis Mayer who said it slowed down the action. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” went on to win the Academy Award and become one of the most covered songs of all time. It’s number one on a list of “Songs of the Century “compiled by the National Endowment for the Arts. In a letter to Howard Arlen, Judy Garland said,
“‘Over the Rainbow’ has become part of my life. It’s so symbolic of everybody’s dreams and wishes that I’m sure that’s why some people get tears in their eyes when they hear it. I’ve sung it thousands of times and it’s still the song that’s closest to my heart.”
The voice of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole speaks for itself. It’s a good time of year to listen to this man who brought so much beauty into the world – his birthday was May 20. When he died in 1997, Hawaii state flags were flown at half-mast, and his body lay in state in the capitol rotunda. He was only the third person given this honor. This video commemorates Israel’s voice and legacy, and records the thousands who came out to celebrate his life on July 12, 1997, as his ashes were given to the ocean and his spirit journeyed over the rainbow.