With a heavy heart, those close to William Awihilima Kahaialiʻi, better known as Willie K among his fans and just "Uncle Willie" to friends and family, announced that the beloved musician lost his lengthy battle with lung cancer. The Lahaina-born Maui native, who was known for performing Hawaiian, blues, rock and opera music for over three decades in Hawaiʻi, passed peacefully on May 18 at his home in Wailuku, surrounded by his ʻohana.
Diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago, Willie K canceled his upcoming Honolulu shows and started immunotherapy. But in mid-February of this year was hospitalized due to pneumonia-causing complications with his lung cancer. "He was in positive spirits and doing okay, and he was looking forward to performing again. He then suddenly turned for the worse and lost his battle," reads a post on his Facebook page.
Willie K has left behind quite the legacy. The longtime performer has won 19 Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards—only given to truly special local musicians and artists—and was even nominated for a Grammy in the first year of the show's Best Hawaiian Music Album award. But more importantly, Uncle Willie was known for being a truly inspirational musician who put aloha first and has helped to inspire an entirely new generation of artists. His presence, his voice and his beautiful music will be sorely missed. A hui hou, William Awihilima Kahaialiʻi.
A celebration of his life will be announced at a later time, the family said.