Hawaiian singer and musician Willie K. stunned the crowd at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu on Saturday with a stirring new take on the national anthem.
Accompanied by his ukulele, he dispensed with the traditional melody and went with his own for “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to the game between the University of Hawaii and University of Nevada, Reno.
The result turned Willie K. ― a local legend known for his virtuoso skills on both the ukulele and guitar ― into a viral superstar overnight.
What makes the unforgettable performance even more impressive is that Willie K. managed to pull it off despite a battle with lung cancer.
Hawaii News Now said the performer’s final chemotherapy session was in April, but he is currently in treatment to boost his immune system.
Fans have been contributing to a GoFundMe campaign to help with his medical bills.
Here’s some of the reaction to his take on the national anthem:
This brought tears to my eyes – one of the most gorgeous performances of the Star-Spangled Banner I’ve ever heard. Just absolutely beautiful. ??♥️??♥️ https://t.co/yXwiKr5Vo7
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) October 22, 2018
I loved it! A coup with that anthem that everyone gets so bent out of shape over. He did it his way, Willie K, Hawaiian style. ??❤️
— Anne Murata (@AnneMurata) October 22, 2018
Willie K is a national treasure. https://t.co/utJapUZVOJ
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) October 22, 2018
Normally, I would be against a rendition like this, saying that it doesn’t sound like the anthem. But, wow, Willie K, that voice. It may not have sounded like the anthem, but it sounded like something straight from the heart. Beautiful. https://t.co/QZ5Ud6nLHS
— Josh Pacheco (@Joshontheradio) October 21, 2018
— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) October 21, 2018
And then a whole new generation of Willie K fans was born. https://t.co/K199fvwTkJ
— Malia Zoghlin (@mzoghlin) October 22, 2018
normally not a fan of singers rebooting the national anthem but this was in Hawaii and was tastefully done Hawaiin style https://t.co/usot9DsHOy
— James Montgomery (@growlyolbastard) October 21, 2018
Amazing…..from WillieK, Hawaiian legend….this is good stuff….usually I’m not a fan of messing with the star spangled banner, but this leaves you with lump in your throat…..just incredible https://t.co/daR4SjQxdy
— marc polymeropoulos (@Mpolymer) October 22, 2018