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Marty Robbins - "Aloha Oe (Farewell to Thee)" (1954 Columbia)

Cover Image for Marty Robbins - "Aloha Oe (Farewell to Thee)" (1954 Columbia)

w Lydia Liliʻu Loloku Waiania Kamakaʻeha; Single, Columbia – 21213

Marty Robbins, still underrated Country+ singer of "El Paso" and "Big Iron" fame released this recording of the de facto Hawaiian anthem in 1954 as the B-side to "My Isle of Golden Dreams", another Hawaiian-themed song and Jazz Age standard. This single version of "Aloha Oe" is distinguished from the much more prolific version debuted on 1957's Songs of the Islands (which is what's most likely to come up in an unqualified search for "Marty Robbins Aloha Oe" or on any given greatest hits compilation) in that Marty sings the first verse here instead of going right into the chorus - hear the latter for comparison:

Also I think the single version's just a more...oomph-ful cut overall...

But indeed, there's more to "Aloha Oe" than just the familiar refrain. I guess it's fine as a romantic love song, but you really get the beauty of it from that first part of the lyrics, which make it work better as a song of love for Hawaii and the loss thereof by the Native Hawaiians (the untranslated Hawaiian lyrics relate to Hawaiian flowers).

The last independent ruler of Hawaii and its first Queen, Liliʻuokalani, is said to have come up with "Aloha Oe" after seeing two lovers in a passionate farewell embrace at the end of a visit to a military official in 1878. The details vary, and the tune may be much older than her lyrics, but by any road the song became very popular internationally, and two decades later, while under house arrest following the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, the Queen is said to have transcribed the song again, being possessed of perfect pitch - in fact she was musical from a young age and learned to play guitar, piano, and a number of other instruments. "Aloha Oe" is just the most famous of her 200+ compositions, many of which were more political in nature...

Of course, Hawaiian music and particularly the Hawaiian Guitar would go on to be massively influential on American popular music in the early 20th Century. The oft-plugged here American Epic covers this in its third episode, as in this clip explaining the instrument's origin (inventor Joseph Kekuku is said to have gotten the idea as a child after a bolt he picked up from a railroad track hit the strings on his guitar):

And above all, Country Music and the Steel Guitar go hand in hand. For another example of this, you could see this post on "Hawaii Blues"by Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen. And for more Marty Robbins...

Also Check Out:

By Marty Robbins:

"My Isle of Golden Dreams" - YouTube | Spotify

"Moonland" (YouTube only) - YouTube

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