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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: A lot of songs shoot to the top of the charts and then disappear. But some songs keep reappearing.
Reporter Caitlan Carroll tells us about one tune that’s been around for quite a while. And in a new version, is lighting up the German pop charts.
MEDLEY: Somewhere over the rainbow…
CAITLAN CARROLL: …has been covered by about a hundred different musicians since the song was first released in 1939. But no one has sold as many singles as the Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, or “Iz” for short.
WOLFGANG BOSS: Even though it is somehow melancholic, it has a very positive message and positive feeling. People can hear it even when they are on the other side of the planet in their car driving to their work.
Wolfgang Boss is the owner of B1 Recordings. He’s responsible for this bringing “Over the Rainbow” to thousands of German car radios 17 years after the song’s initial release. The singer Iz died in 1997, but this past fall, Boss lobbied Iz’s small Hawaiian label for an exclusive licensing deal in Germany. After a $100,000 marketing campaign, the song made it to number one on German charts for 12 weeks. He says it’s sold:
Boss: Altogether, more than 750,000 singles.
And spawned a kind of fever for the song’s signature instrument — the ukulele. Many music stores are starting to sell out. And the main ukulele fan club in Germany has grown to 2,600 members.
In the backroom of a small restaurant in Berlin, about 20 ukulele aficionados sit around drinking beer and practicing. I sit down next to a guy who goes by the name Uku-Klaus.
UKU KLAUS: Israel’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” that starts my interest to play this little instrument.
And interest in the song has spread to France, where it’s now number one on the charts. Wolfgang Boss says Japan is next. This version of “Over the Rainbow” seems to land on a pot of gold every time.
In Berlin, I’m Caitlan Carroll for Marketplace.
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