Dead ukulele-playing Hawaiian tops German charts

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With the body of a sumo wrestler and the voice of an angel, a ukulele-playing Hawaiian named Israel Kamakawiwo'ole has stormed to number one on Germany's music charts -- 13 years after he died.

Also known as "Bruddah Iz", his lilting version of "Over the Rainbow", made famous by Judy Garland in the film "The Wizard of Oz", has wowed Germans who have pushed it to the top of hit parade for three successive weeks.

The music by the 350-pound (159-kilogramme) singer was also featured in the film "50 First Dates" starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore and "Meet Joe Black" with Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins.

"What's the reason for this phenomenal posthumous success? With his ukulele and gentle voice, Bruddah Iz allows us to dream of a better world," raved mass circulation daily Bild.

Comparing him to unlikely British pop stars Paul Potts and Susan Boyle, the Tagesspiegel daily said: "The Germans love the captivating song of the dead Hawaiian, which floats peacefully like an ocean."

"It is the suitable sound for a time in which the inhabitants of the global village put their arms around each other and wept tears of joy when 33 miners were brought up from the Chilean underworld," the daily added.

His version of the Wizard of Oz classic seems to have scored particular success in the German-speaking world, reaching the top 20 in Switzerland and in Austria but it is the Germans who have really taken him to heart.

Kamakawiwo'ole died in 1997 at the age of 38 from breathing difficulties brought on by his weight.

© 2010 AFP

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