Sunday, 10 February 2013

Heavy Treasure

"Over The Rainbow" as performed by Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwoʻole 
I gotta get out more. Apparently, this version has graced (if you believed in heaven, that's where it would be from) all kinds of movies, TV shows, and TV commercials (the Internet, too, thankfully), but I had never heard it till this morning; nor had I heard of the singer, a Hawaiian icon who died in 1997 at the age of thirty-eight because he weighed several hundred pounds. If you're squeamish about looking at titanic obesity (I'm not, but I get that some might be), you should just close your eyes and listen. (I always close my eyes when I sing anyway.) I promise you that you'll be transported, which is what this innocent song of escape is supposed to do to you. It's innocent because escape is never really possible, and Mr. Kamakawiwoʻole gets the words "wrong" (here, however, subtraction becomes addition), but without his singing the ones he does, the song is just another pretty thrum in the breeze.

Simple is better a lot of the time. Slide a mellifluous voice around a gorgeous, simple melody, add the most simply strummed of ukuleles, and you get, well, heaven. I started loving this slightly goofy song very long ago when I was just a slight little goof myself, and I've heard a lot of singers sing it almost as beautifully as Mr. Kamakawiwoʻole does -- Judy Garland, who broke it in, and others like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles (mmmmmmm . . . Ray Charles). But this imperfect version is, for me, the version Plato would've approved of. (Plato probably liked music, right?)  

The treasure ain't at the end of the rainbow -- it's right here, sung by a very large guy who lived (and used his very large talent) all his very short life in paradisal weather. Who needs God when you've lucked out geographically? As I've already mentioned, I just this morning heard it for the first time, but I'm already into double figures. Hawaii (maybe, some day, if I get out more), here I come.

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