He became famous outside Hawaii when his album Facing Future was released in 1993 with his medley of "Over the Rainbow" and "What a Wonderful World", which was subsequently featured in several films, television programs, and commercials.
Throughout the latter part of his life, Iz suffered from severe obesity and at one point carried 770 pounds (350 kg) on his 6-foot 2-inch (1.88 m) frame. He endured several hospitalizations and died of weight-related respiratory illness on June 26, 1997, at 12:18 a.m. at the age of 38. He is survived by his wife Marlene Kamakawiwo'ole and his daughter Ceslieanne "Wehi".
The Hawaiʻi State Flag flew at half-mast on July 10, 1997, the day of Iz's funeral. His koa wood coffin lay in state at the Capitol building in Honolulu. He was the third person in Hawaiian history to be accorded this honor (the other two were Governor John A. Burns and Senator Spark Matsunaga) and the only non-politician. Over 10,000 people attended his funeral. Thousands of fans gathered and cheered as his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean at Mākua Beach on July 12, 1997.
On September 20, 2003, hundreds paid tribute to Iz as a 200-pound bronze bust of the revered singer was unveiled at the Waianae Neighborhood Community Center on Oʻahu. The singer's widow, Marlene Kamakawiwoʻole, and sculptor Jan-Michelle Sawyer were present for the dedication ceremony.
Israel's recording of "Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" reached #12 on Billboard's Hot Digital Tracks chart the week of January 31, 2004 (for the survey week ending January 18, 2004).
On July 4, 2007, Israel Kamakawiwoʻole debuted at No. 44 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart with "Wonderful World," selling 17,000 units. It was his biggest sales week ever, helping him garner his second No. 1 on Billboard's Top World Music chart. As of October 2007, the album has sold 75,000 copies.
The song continues to be a low-charting best seller, passing 1,348,000 downloads sold as of the survey week ending August 10, 2008, according to Nielsen Soundscan.