Israel Kamakawiwoʻole was a promoter of native Hawaiian cultural rights and Hawaiian sovereignty activist. Kamakawiwo’ole used his music to promote awareness of the second-class status imposed upon native Hawaiians by the tourist industry. Kamakawiwoʻole played the soprano ukulele, and his music is heavily reflective of traditional Hawaiian music, although also incorporates some jazz and reggae.
Kamakawiwoʻole died on the 26th of June 1997, due to complications from morbid obesity. The Hawaii state flag flew at half-mast the next day for Kamakawiwoʻole’s funeral, which approximately 10000 people attended. He was the only non-government official in Hawaiian history to have his koa wood coffin lay in state. Kamakawiwoʻole’s fans gathered in the thousands to scatter his ashes Mākua Beach on July 12, 1997, scenes of which can be seen in the video for Over the Rainbow/Wonderful World, which was released post-humorously. The video, featured on YouTube has had over 227 million views.
Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole is the longest leading number one song on any of the Billboard song charts, as it spent 185 weeks at number one, and was certified 2x platinum in 2011. The song has featured in numerous movies and TV shows, and in 2014, Pixar released a short film, Lava, featuring two volcanoes, based on Israel Kamakawiwoʻole and his wife, which music indicative of Over the Rainbow/Wonderful World. The major success of the song has massive exposure to Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s promotion for native Hawaiian cultural rights and Hawaiian independence.