Iam Tongi made it clear from the start that he was trying out for American Idol in honor of his dad, Rodney, who died just two months before Iam’s audition.
Over weeks of intense competition the 18-year-old did his dad proud by ultimately winning the American Idol Season 21 crown.
Iam earned his spot in the competition with an emotional cover of “Monsters” by James Blunt. He shared the heartbreaking story of his father’s passing, adding that he can still hear his dad harmonizing to every song he sings.
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After Iam won American Idol, a video posted to his YouTube channel one year ago resurfaced. The video is of a special moment he shared with his dad just four months before his dad passed away. Iam plays his guitar and sings lead as his dad provides flawless harmonies on the Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers classic “Islands in the Stream.”
Like most family harmonies do, Iam and Rodney’s voices blended perfectly, giving the song a beauty and specialness that even Kenny and Dolly didn’t have.
“Islands in the Stream” was released by Kenny and Dolly in 1983 and has been covered dozens of times since. Brett Eldredge & Meghan Trainor, Lady A, Blake Shelton & Emily Ann Roberts, and Barry Gibb & Olivia Newton-John are just a few of the acts who have covered the song.
But, upon listening to Iam and Rodney Tongi effortlessly and casually sing the familiar tune, it’s easy to see why their cover is a little bit extra special.
Iam Tongi’s YouTube channel also features other duets with his dad, including one of them singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” The video, filmed in 2016, shows a 12-year-old Iam strumming his guitar as he and his dad sing the popular tune. Iam’s incredible talent was evident even then.