A spontaneous rendition of “Over the Rainbow” on an Aussie train

The video below shows a bunch of passengers on a commuter train in Perth, Australia being incited to sing “Over the Rainbow”—the wonderful ukelele version by Israel (“Iz”) Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole. And many of the passengers joined in. Now this is not an attempt to ask for money, which would have been my first thought had I been on that train. Rather, as Inspiralight reports, it’s one act by a movement called “The Liberators”:

Pete hands out the lyrics to the song whilst a young Ukulele player brings out a vintage uke and starts to hum out an angelic version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Within seconds other members of the public decide to join in on this outpouring of community joy.

“We had a few of the Liberators help get the ball rolling, however more than 60% of the passengers who sung along were complete strangers. We sung the entire song, progressively gaining confidence and participants as we went. When we finished an uproar of positive emotion, claps, cheers and smiles came streaming from the people.” Said Michelle, one of the Liberators who helped in the morning.

The Liberators are no strangers to these public participatory experiences having created multiple examples of freedom & human connection in Perth including the Perth Train Party which gained more than 40 million views online. The Liberators create these moments for the world to no longer be fearful of respectful self-expression in public. We expose an element of our own vulnerability as a way to give strength to those who are unable to do so yet. This is where the idea of Liberation comes in to the picture.

The next step for this Perth based international social movement is taking their concepts of love and human connection through 5 capital cities in Europe to see if these acts of spontaneous joy are universally well received or if it’s just in Perth. Assist the Liberators in sharing the love to a global audience by supporting their crowdfunding campaign here à www.pozi.be/liberatorstoeurope

My question to readers: would you have sung? I don’t know. For me, being shy, I suppose it would have depended on how many fellow passengers I saw singing along. But really, it does seem like it was a great experience.

In case you’re not familiar with the version of “Over the Rainbow” that’s played here, I’ve put it below. It astounds me that a song that I considered a bit schlocky can be made into such an emotional experience. It’s compounded for me by knowing that Iz Kamakawiwo’ole died way too young: he was only 38, but had multiple health problems from being morbidly obese. He was reportedly a wonderful person, and when he died he had a state funeral, with his big body encased in a koa wood coffin and placed in the Hawaiian state capitol building: the first time that honor was accorded to someone not in the government. He left behind a wife and one child.

Back when I used to watch more television, one of my favorite television shows was E.R., about an emergency room medical staff in Chicago. One of the doctors, Mark Greene (played by Anthony Edwards), was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and decided to stop chemotherapy and end his life with his partner and child in Hawaii. His daughter played this song to him when he was dying (you can see that scene here), and it made me blubber like a baby. I don’t dare watch that video because it’ll happen again.

RIP Iz. Your life was too short, as are ours.


  1. Posted October 12, 2016 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I would have been belting it out! 🙂

  2. Chris G
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Well, I sang along the whole way through, sat here all on my ownsome. I was good too!
    Chris G

  3. Chris G
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    As an aside, how do others feel about using the phrase RIP? I’m not too keen,
    Chris G.

    • Posted October 12, 2016 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      I think it’s picky to object to that. It’s just a sign of farewell and respect.

      • Posted October 12, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, it’s no worse than the common, “God be wit’ ye,” typically abbreviated to, “goodbye.”

        And to those still not convinced, you can console yourself with the knowledge that today is Wotan’s Day, the second such in the eighth moon of the 2,016th year of our dominator.




        • Posted October 13, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

          Although, there comes a point where “etymology is not destiny”.

          Mario Bunge used to say “salud!” to people who sneezed or coughed in class and I remember him realizing that etymologically is also a bit weird (for a secularist).

      • Chris G
        Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        I don’t object, and I’m not being picky – just genuinely interested in other views on their using the phrase.
        I agree it’s a sign of ‘farewell and respect’, but I don’t feel it’s ‘just’ that – it clearly has connotations of living on after death.
        Most people have no idea about the word goodbye being derived from ‘god be with you’ so doesn’t carry the same complications,
        Chris G.

      • Kevin
        Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        I do not see the point of ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes, but RIP is up for grabs. To me there is nothing religious about RIP. It’s a way to bestow honor on to one you might have respected, might have wanted to know better, might have have wished to live longer. Nothing religious about that.

    • GBJames
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      I use RIP. But I am aware of the peculiarity of it when I do.

      • Posted October 12, 2016 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

        Actually…pretty much by definition, all modern printers use a Raster Image Processor at some point in the pipeline….



  4. Posted October 12, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    My question to readers: would you have sung?

    Oh, heck yeah.

    But, then again, I’m a semi-professional trumpeter who’s sung in many choirs of all sorts over the years.

    And…trust me. In these settings, absolutely nobody is upset or offended or embarrassed on behalf of bad singers. The quality of your performance is not only entirely irrelevant, but bad singers get more social bonus points for having fun singing than the good ones.

    Sing like you’re in the shower or at the ballpark, with no more care for what comes out of your mouth, and all will be more than well.



    • Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      I often tell people that what my husband lacks in ability (he can’t even carry a tune) he makes up for in enthusiasm. 🙂 No one has ever complained. . .

    • darrelle
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      I keep telling my wife and kids that I’m ready for The Voice but for some reason they don’t take me seriously.

    • JoanL
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      Trust? I trusted advice on all fronts that a mom should sing to her baby … as soon as my baby could talk, she told me not to sing.

      The one song I do sing (very quietly) is “Happy Birthday” so as not to seem unfriendly. But other weak singers either step away or stop – they can’t seem to continue if they can hear me.

  5. Billy Bl.
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen The Wizard Of Oz dozens of times throughout my life (I have the DVD), and this song is one of my favourites. I would definitely have sung, if badly.

  6. Posted October 12, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    The title should have been “… on an Oz train.”

  7. Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I also wonder how a ukulele version of the “Ace of Spades” would affect the passengers?

  8. J.Baldwin
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Would probably have been too choked up to sing. Reminds me that I still have a lot to learn about living.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      Me too. We played it (Eva Cassidy version) at my wife’s funeral, at her request. Three and a half years ago, and it still reduces me to a wreck.

      • Xray
        Posted October 13, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        Eva Cassidy’s version, much different in style, is awesome — and so sad, in part by our knowing she too died young, at age 33, before she became famous. Thank our lucky stars for that grainy youtube recording of her singing the song live at Blues Alley, accompanied only by her guitar. When she hits that crescendo at about 4:00 in, I lose it every time. I don’t think I could take it at a funeral, especially a funeral for my wife.

        (My condolences, Haggis, since 3 years is barely enough for the numbness to fade.)

  9. Kevin
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    My wife loved ER. I happen to watch that very episode. Sad, as many of the episodes seemed to be. My only constant criticism of looking over the shoulder of my wife while she watched was that ER built in too many weaknesses of their characters.

    Life does have heroes with minor flaws. Not everyone has major flaws or mishaps. But then again, this is not just ER’s problem. It’s been around since that guy slept with his mom and blinded himself.

    • J.Baldwin
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      If you’ve never read David Nettle’s theory of drama as a “supernormal” conversation, you may find it interesting (I did): “The Wheel of Fire and the Mating Game” is the title. Here’s a .pdf link.

  10. Leigh
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Heck yes.

    I think we should answer street preachers and screamers with song, too.

  11. E.A. Blair
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    I doubt very much whether I would have sung. I have never cared much for the sound of my own voice, particularly when I hear a recording played back (it lacks the resonance form hearing it in my own skull), but I particularly dislike it when I attempt to sing. I can barely carry a tune, my pitch perception is, for all intents and purposes, nonexistant and my voice modulates to a different key with every third or fourth note. When I am in a situation where group dinging is called for, I either lip-synch or use as little volume as possible. My attempts at learning to play musical instruments were no better. I played in high school band, but always in the lower echelons. Since I made my living as a writer (technical) I figured that my skill with words was better expressed in print rather than by speaking.

    • Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      I’m guessing that’s the most hilarious typo you’ve ever made… 🙂

    • E.A. Blair
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      Typo apology – “singing”, not “dinging”.

      • keith cook +/-
        Posted October 14, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        E A Blair, you should never apologize for dinging. Life is too short.

  12. Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    I would have tried to sing (lost my singing ability due to surgery for thyroid cancer some years ago. After surgery,I asked the doctor if I would be able to sing. He said, “Could you sing before? Singing and music was what made life livable.)or hum or whistle and tap my feet or wiggle in my seat. I sang while watching the video, with tears streaming down my cheeks. Everyone who can, sing!!!

  13. Pliny the in Between
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    One of my great fantasies is to be part of the kind of spontaneous eruption of song and dance only seen in musicals – I almost pulled this off myself back in ’89 when I danced down some sets in a public park and a few people joined in to a tune from ‘The Music Man’.

    Alas, rain started to poor and since I couldn’t transition quickly enough to a Gene Kelly routine, the moment was lost.

    Alcohol may have been involved.


    • Pliny the in Between
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      DoH! Pour

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      That’s Pliny with a capital P, and that rhymes with T, and that stands for Trouble.

      • Posted October 13, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        Runs in the family. Didn’t one of the Plinies (Plinys?) fall into a volcano?

  14. Posted October 12, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Definitely would have joined in, I’ve loved that version since I first heard it.

  15. Mack
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry to sound a note of discord – but I can’t stand this kind of activity on public transit. Forcing this on commuters that just wanted to relax or read on their way to wherever isn’t fair. 😦

    • Gordon
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 4:48 am | Permalink

      In London, where I am at present, a move to wear “Speak to Me” buttons on the Tube by some people who presumably wanted to encourage interaction got a very hostile reaction.
      They also cancel trains and off load extremely annoyed commuters from trains tha thave ‘the wrong sort of graffiti.”

  16. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    My initial reaction would’ve been to decline — until I sussed out that it was a thing, and that there were a sufficient number of other singers to drown out my voice, then I would’ve joined in with alacrity.

    Any way you cut it, we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

  17. Posted October 12, 2016 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Even though my singing sounds like a bag of cats, I would have sung proudly. More music less hate. I love this idea

  18. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    ** Spoiler Alert **
    ** Trigger Warning **

    Still here? I now always hear the lyrics as ‘Somewhere over the rainbow, weigh a pie’. It doesn’t spoil my enjoyment but it does require effort not to be distracted.

    And I’ve now shared that with you…

  19. Steve Pollard
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Well, if they do try it out in other countries, I hope London gets a go. The poor benighted commuters on Southern Trains need all the spiritual uplift they can get.

  20. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    I agree it’s kitschy, at least it was originally, but it’s one of those songs that’s very open to different musical interpretations. It’s kind of a standard. So there are versions that really wring the melancholy from what is a pretty sappy tune. When I was seventeen or something I heard the Flaming Lips cover it live and it changed the way I felt about it forever.

  21. rickflick
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure I would have joined in as soon as I was comfortable that it wasn’t political, commercial, or religious.

  22. Merilee
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Love it! I woulda belted. Some of these people would have made me sound good my comparison,

    The Hawaiian guy is fantastic!

  23. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    I might have sung, if inebriated enough.

    That’d teach ’em to start a sing-song within earshot of me!



  24. busterggi
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    I might have joined in at first but the changes made from the original annoy me and I wouldn’t have kept singing. I know, I’m too anal but that’s how I am about almost all music.

  25. Posted October 13, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Everyone, EVERYONE, should treat themselves to listening to Israel Kamakawiwoole’s version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow/Wonderful World”.

    Jerry probably linked to it; I haven’t checked the links.

    * * * * *

    I had a somewhat similar experience following a following a concert by the A Capella Group, The Nylons (remember them? The original lineup were amazing!).

    The last “send them on their way” song in the last encore was “Hey Hey Goodbye”. They got entire audience singing with them: About 4000 people. The place rocked.

    Then they walked off the stage, waving, without stopping singing.

    And the crowd just kept singing too. Right out into the streets of Seattle, we all walked out singing the chorus from that song, LOUD. It didn’t dissipate until a block or so away from the theater.

    It was a genuinely moving experience. Especially in a big “cool” city.

    • Posted October 13, 2016 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      The linked version does not include the other song.

      My favorite of Iz’s performances is a medley/blend of the two songs: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World”.

      It’s from the album Facing Future which is excellent start to finish, highest recommendation.

      Iz was very much beloved in his native Hawaii. As Jerry said, RIP, Iz.

  26. Claudia Baker
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Definitely would have joined in. Fell in love with Iz and his rendition of this song the first time I heard it. Also made me want to take up the ukulele. And move to Hawaii.

    Have to go and put his CD on now. And sing loudly, alone, in my living room. Kitty won’t mind.

    Yes, RIP Iz. Way too young.

  27. Martin Knowles
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    I can’t bring myself to watch. I squirm too easily when sentimental, corny, jerk-you-around feelings are being displayed publicly.

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