I heard a version of “Over the Rainbow” the other day, sung by a man in a sad, faraway voice, accompanied by only a ukulele. As he sang, I realized I’d actually heard the song somewhere before, but never realized what he was singing. But listening the other day, the pain, the longing, the hope, all of the humanity and confusion of our great country seemed caught in this haunting, grown man’s voice, singing this little children’s song.
The singer, it turns out, was the Hawaiian artist Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, and he’d actually recorded the song in 1993 (which includes a segue into Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”) But the song seemed outrageously timely to me, for a reason I can’t quite explain. Somehow “Iz,” as he was called, captured the zeitgeist of today – 16 years ago.