More Songs From Living on the Earth – extended album notes and lyrics

MSFLOTE Cover for ABL website

Purchase CD – More Songs from Living on the Earth

I wrote these songs in the 1960s and ‘70s, when I lived and created my books in rural communes in Northern California, Vermont and Hawaii – except for Paisley Days, which I wrote in 1986, looking back on those times. Miraculously, the cassette home recordings I made of them survived into 2013, when I digitized them, relearned the songs, and began producing this recording, with the help of a host of super-talented collaborators.

It’s not my first dip into the well of songs I composed during that time. My first CD, Music from Living on the Earth, released in 2000 during my national tour for the 30th anniversary edition of my book Living on the Earth, is another collection of 17 of these songs. It’s mostly a solo vocal/guitar recording (the last track is an a capella choir).

Also, the CD Songs from Being of the Sun, released in 2013, is a re-mastered recording of music I wrote or co-wrote during the late 60s and early 70s, recorded with and by composer/musician Ramón Sender Barayón, just before our book Being of the Sun (Harper & Row, 1973) was published.

The musicians on More Songs From Living on the Earth (including me) were recorded by Chris McNeil (at his studio in La Herradura, Spain), Mark DeCozio (at his studio in Scottsdale, Arizona) and Ron Grant (at his studio in Los Angeles CA).

The synth orchestration and programming on “Devotion to a Spiritual Guide,” and the editing, mixing and mastering of the whole album are all by Ron Grant, an Emmy and Oscar-winning film composer. He created the orchestral/choral arrangement for Devotional for a Spirit Guide, plus sound effects on New Years Eve Party, and additional synthesizer sound tracks on Butterfly Farewell and Yabyum. This is the 4th CD on which we have collaborated. He also creates animated stories for children.

Los Angeles-based graphic designer and marketing consultant Al Lopez created the digital layout for the packaging from my illustrations, lettering and design ideas. This is the fifth CD art collaboration I’ve done with Al. I respect his abilities and ideas tremendously.

The dazzling golden photo of me on the traycard was taken by Vin Oota on May 30, 2012 at Café Slow, Kokubunji, Tokyo, Japan.

In the photo, I am wearing organic cotton, handmade, fair trade clothing designed by the brilliant Kaorico Ago for her Japan-based natural fashion company, Little Eagle.

I created all of the music, lyrics, and arrangements, the packaging design, liner notes and illustrations (most of which are from my book Living on the Earth.) I sang all of the lead vocals, played guitar on every track (melody guitar on all except tracks 5, 9, 14 and 17, on which I played rhythm guitar), sang harmonies on tracks 4, 6, 11 and 15, and produced the CD on behalf of Indigo With Stars, Inc. The songs are published by Bay Tree Music, a subsidiary of Indigo With Stars, Inc., and all of the songs are copyrighted and registered with ASCAP as of 2014.

About the musicians:

Some of Mark Hewins’ guitar solos are played on a guitar synthezier, and sound like pan pipes (Piper of the Woods), bells (Yabyum), banjo (Green, Green Rains) and ethereal harmonics (Butterfly Farewell). He’s from the UK and recorded for me in Spain. Besides playing guitar, he does research and development for new electronic musical instruments.

Gwendolyn Sanford is a psych folk luminary who has made many beautiful CDs of her own. Her soprano harmonies are on Beautiful, Beautiful, Have a Good Time, and New Years Eve Party. She’s based in LA, where she and her husband Brandon Jay create musical soundtracks for TV series including Weeds, Orange is the New Black, and American Princess, as well as perform in bands they lead, separately and together.

Brian Brigham is a professional vocalist based in Los Angeles, currently singing back-up in ’60s pop legend Franki Vallee’s band, and doing studio vocal work in between tours.

Gonzalo Palacios is a wonderful young guitar player from Madrid who we recorded on mandolin in Los Angeles, where he lives and works. I love that his mandolin style is more southern European than bluegrass; it works perfectly on Have a Good Time and New Years Eve Party.

Tom McNalley is a great young guitarist based in Los Angeles. I totally under-used his talents, requesting only a couple of rhythm guitar tracks (Surviving in Style and Song of You and Me) and a lead solo (Song of You and Me).

Louis Hanshaw is a pop guitarist/vocalist/arranger from the UK, based in Torrox, Spain, whose genius for middle harmonies shows up on Have a Good Time and New Years Eve Party.

Benn Clatworthy is a multi-reed player from the UK, based in Los Angeles. He played a swinging tenor saxophone on Paisley Days (1986), as well as a lovely classical flute duet that Ron Grant wrote for Devotional for a Spiritual Guide.

Doug Webb is a renowned live and session player in Los Angeles. He played soprano, alto and tenor saxophones as well as clarinet on my 2006 CD What Living’s All About. So, I called him to play clarinet in the 1920s style again, on Hang Around and Boogie.

Dwight Kilian is based in Phoenix, and used to be Adjunct Professor of Jazz Bass at Arizona State University, but now works as the musical director of a big church. He’s a very busy man, but, in an astonishing marathon, he managed to record all 17 of the bass tracks in one epic day at Mark DeCozio’s studio in Scottsdale, and kept his usual positive attitude through it all. I especially love his bowed drone on Onward, Onward Ever Flow.

Lyrics, plus notes about the songs:

1. Surviving in Style:

These lyrics contain a statement of my personal philosophy, beginning with a reference to William Blake’s poem, “Eternity”:

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.

Blake’s poem is about spontaneity and non-attachment as a spiritual path.

The lyrics of Surviving in Style observe us all learning from each other, expanding our ability to love, and caring for the Earth. They visualize peace and disarmament, and all people sharing the resources of the Earth. They also allude to the mass extinction toward which the human race is currently rushing.

I wrote this song in the early 1970s, long before climate change was even being discussed. This song refuses defeat. It is a call to action.

Verse 1
Well, I have seen both fame and fortune
I have let them go by
Only thing that I hold on to
Is to kiss the joy as it flies
Flying away, each moment giving birth
To the next and next, on forever
Time is a teacher, second only to love
And we are learning to be better
Better at loving, better letting go
Better at living in the shadow of the future

Verse 2
Well, I have blamed the older people
For the way the world was spinning
Towards disaster, bend over,
And kiss your ass goodbye
But now I say each generation
Can find a means or measure
To help out, and make the world survive
We are all teachers, we are all yearning to love
And we are learning together to be better
Better at sharing, better at showing our love
Better at shining through the shadows of our fears

Someone with the right tools could take the bombs apart
Someone with the right words could open people’s hearts
With open-hearted sharing, there is still enough for all
With open-hearted daring, erase the writing on the wall

Verse 3
Well, I have had another vision
Of a world where everybody
Lived in harmony and safety and non-conformity
It’s just a conscious jump away
And we can take that jump today
To make a future our children can survive
Let’s let them teach us
To laugh and to love
And to make our little world a little better
Better for children, better for creatures of the earth
Better for coming generations of the future

Singing about survival, surviving in style
Living long, and dying with a smile.

2. Piper of the Woods:

An erotic love song, in which the archetypal god of the woods and fields is invoked through the eyes of a human lover. His iconic pipes surround the listener, darting from one stereo channel to the other, as if the Piper were merrily dancing through the trees, calling and enchanting with his music. The beloved singing to the Piper is clear that, while she surrenders to him, she is not subservient. They meet as equals.

Verse 1
And in the morning you awakened next to me
Took my pretty body in your arms
Through the trees the sun was shining gently
Spreading warmth, as we flirted and fused
Through your eyes Pan was smiling at me
The playful piper of the woods

Verse 2
Over longer distances you have spoken to me
Taken my soul into your own
Through the wires we exchanged electricity
From your home, over highways and roads
Through the words spoken explicitly
Of playful mornings in the woods

Speaking your beautifully chosen words
Weaving your stories of whimsy
You ignited my gypsy soul
Reminding me, strength is within me
Strength is within me.

Verse 3
And on the morning we awaken next, you’ll see
As you take my picture with your mind
Through our lives we collect memories
Cruel or kind, we interpret as we choose
Through our youth time both lingers and flies
Oh, playful piper of the woods

Bridge 2
Singing my quickly frozen words
Believing the gift merely comes through
I’m repaying a debt in kind
Reminding you, faith is within you
Faith is within you

Verse 4
And in the evening our stars intertwine
As you take my pretty body in your bed
Beneath conjuncting moons so freely
You have said that I am what you choose
Beneath our fantasies we meet equally
Oh, playful piper of the woods

Playful piper of the woods, playful piper of the woods
Playful piper of the woods, playful piper of the woods

3. Hang Around and Boogie:

“Groovy” was the superlative of choice for English-speaking bohemians in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It implies being “in the groove,” in synch with the natural rhythms of life. The narrator of the song, a flirtatious girl speaking first to herself, and then to a prospective partner, describes the very relaxed intimate relationship she desires, and then suggests that we all live a life we love.

Verse 1
Would you like a love in your life?
Yes, I’d like a love in my life;
I want somebody groovy
To hang around and boogie with me.

Verse 2
Would you like to live by the sea
And plant a little garden with me?
I want somebody groovy
To hang around and boogie with me.

Bridge 1
Somebody easy to laugh with
Someone to go half and half with
On the dues and the juice.

Verse 3
I like to do the things that I do,
And I like the way that I do them, too.
I want somebody groovy
To hang around and do them with me.

Verse 4
Would you like a girl in your life?
You wouldn’t have to call her your wife.
All she wants to do with you
Is hang around and boogie with you.

Bridge 2
Somebody mellow to hug with,
Someone to roll on the rug with
And play in the hay

Verse 5
What’s your favorite version of bliss?
Wrap it up and seal with a kiss
Take it home and open the card
Have a little love in your life

Have a little lovin’ in your life!

4. Devotional for a Spiritual Guide:

A hymn of appreciation for a person who has focused over a long period of time on developing unconditional love, selfless service, and higher consciousness, thereby inspiring others to do the same, but in their own ways. The third verse is a set of life instructions received from such a being.

Verse 1
Your love is the signature of God’s love in our lives
When you came we knew that God was listening
And your heart is the temple drum at our initiation
Your eyes are the altar of our christening
So deep is the love you’re expressing
From a Source that’s never lessening
So remember wherever you go today
You’re going with our blessings.

Verse 2
Your soul is a masterpiece painted of compassion
Your mind is a channel of creation
And your life is a Sufi tale of non-attachment
Lived in every moment and location.
And our love is a heart to heart connection
With a movement toward perfection
And the beauty that we find in you
Could only be a reflection

Verse 3
Each day is an amphora full of holy wine
Each breath we sip it from a chalice
Drink deep of the nectars of the sun and the moon
Shining on our planetary palace
And whoever you meet here, love them
For our cups are always filled again
And follow your wildest fantasy
For that will be your salvation.

5. Serenade:

A shimmering summer blues-waltz for two lovers living close to nature.

Verse 1
Sun down, moon crown, blue skies, rosy clouds
Oh moon, you’re the song that I’ll sing about
As the sun goes down
Lily ponds, coconut fronds
In your crescent light

Verse 2
Sun-crowned moon man, blue eyes, gentle hands
Oh you, you’re the one that I’ll serenade
As the sun goes down
Stars fall through the hall
Of the citadel of time

Verse 3
Sunrise, sleepy eyes, another day in paradise
With you, free to follow our fantasies
‘Til the sun goes down
You take me far beyond the stars
I’ve ever seen before

Verse 4
Sun high, you and I, in a meadow in July
And you dance above and inside of me
‘Til the sun goes down
Shadows pass through the grass
Bowing to the east

Verse 5
Sun down, moon crown, blue skies, rosy clouds
Oh moon, you’re the song that I’ll sing about
As the sun goes down

6. Beautiful, Beautiful:

A celebration of the powers of positive thinking, appreciation of others and self, enjoyment of the moment, and the beauty that radiates from a person engaged in these processes.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful

Verse 1
Everyone I know is so beautiful, beautiful
And everywhere I go is so beautiful, beautiful
My oh my, it’s all beautiful, beautiful
And so am I, I’m beautiful, beautiful

Bridge 1
I’ve taken off those blue-tinted shades
This rosy colored vision’s paying back in spades
I believe in magic that flows from above
And beauty is a talent for inspiring love

Verse 2
Look at yourself, you’re so beautiful, beautiful
And everyone else is so beautiful, beautiful
When you can see we’re all beautiful, beautiful
That’s how you can be so beautiful, beautiful

Bridge 2
Throw away the worry and bring on the bliss
Turn your mind right over, let it dance like this
No more waiting for pie in the sky
We get to go to heaven before we die

Verse 3
Everybody here is so beautiful, beautiful
There’s nothing to fear when it’s beautiful, beautiful
So come on and say it’s all beautiful, beautiful
A beautiful day, so beautiful, beautiful

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful

7. Green, Green Rain:

A year of weather changes in Northern California, from arid summer to stormy winter, with its flooding rivers. The sheet music was first published in the book Being of the Sun, which I co-authored with Ramón Sender Barayón, in 1973.

Verse 1
Green, green, green, green spring valley forest
Sun smiling shy, gently calling
Back the rain from the grass, turn, turn summer brown
‘Til the green, green rains come falling.

Verse 2
Fall, fall, fall thunder showers in the autumn
Dark clouds shout, for they’re roaring
Power songs to the grass, turn, turn winter green
When the green, green rains come falling.

Verse 3
Long, long, long, long cold winter nights
Rain seems to call out a warning
Of a flood, and the grass cries, cries in the mud
Like a lady all covered for mourning.

Verse 4
Pray, pray, pray for the sun to come back
Sun shining warm on our bodies
That have grown, with the grass, green, green in the winter
When the river came up to the cottage

Verse 5
Green, green, green, green spring valley forest
Sun smiling shy, gently calling
Back the rain from the grass, turn, turn summer brown
‘Til the green, green rains come falling.

8. Hard Living:

The work of changing human society so that it benefits the many, rather than the few, is often stressful, exhausting, and dangerous. Yet, it must be done. Loving and sharing imparts strength and inspiration.

Verse 1
It’s hard to go on living when you can’t go to sleep
It’s hard to go on walking when you’re falling toward your feet
And it’s hard to be forgiving when the whole world weeps

But it’s doing things that are hard that makes you strong
It’s doing things that are hard that gives you song
Lord, it’s hard, hard living, loving brothers and giving,
No, it never, never was easy in this hard, hard world

Verse 2
It’s hard to go on talking when you can’t back down
It’s hard to go on walking through a racetrack town
And it’s hard to see the blocking that you’re doing now

But it’s doing things that are hard that makes you strong
It’s doing things that are hard that gives you song
Lord, it’s hard, hard living, loving brothers and giving,
No, it never, never was easy in this hard, hard world

Verse 3
It’s hard to face the lessons that you thought you learned
It’s hard to face the people that you know you burned
And it’s hard to take the karma that you know you’ve earned

But it’s doing things that are hard that makes you strong
It’s doing things that are hard that gives you song
Lord, it’s hard, hard living, loving brothers and giving,
No, it never, never was easy in this hard, hard world

9. Hippie Hill:

In the mid-1960s, on a certain hillside in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California, drum circles formed, dancers swayed, and neighbors from the Haight-Ashbury, Richmond, Sunset and Fillmore districts would gather to socialize, share what they had, and talk about what they hoped to build. It was the birth of a new society, based on compassion before profit, creativity before conformity, and serenity before materialism.

Hippie Hill groovin’, white clouds movin’ on, so slow
Cool grass is soothin’, long dresses movin’ past, billow
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

Verse 1
I’m feeling the sun in the air
Through the tangles of my hair
There are children and dogs running free
Through the conga drums’ African beat
Whoa, whoa

Hippie Hill groovin’, white clouds movin’ on, so slow
Cool grass is soothin’, long dresses movin’ past, billow
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

Verse 2
If there’s heaven, it’s here, right now
If it isn’t, it’s a-comin’ any how
So I’m diggin’ that comfortable sky
And the trees are all nodding in time
Whoa, whoa

Verse 3
Get a groove on and move on, down here, right now
It’s the happ’ningest place in this town
Bring the best thing that you’ve got to share
Cause a new world is being born here
Whoa, whoa

Hippie Hill groovin’, white clouds movin’ on, so slow
Cool grass is soothin’, long dresses movin’ past, billow
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

10. Butterfly Farewell:

People evolve, and, like caterpillars becoming butterflies, they depart for new realms that resonate more harmoniously with their evolved selves. This song is a farewell to enduring forced conformity, ridicule and cruelty. This is a departure without revenge, but, rather, with the joy of newfound freedom.

Verse 1
Today I am a butterfly
Flying to a better sky
Not another bitter sigh
To utter as I flutter by
So high, so high
Goodbye, goodbye

Verse 2
Once a walking sleeping bag
Caterpillar scallywag
Followed any waving flag
I’ve taken off my number tag
I’m free, to be
Just me, I’m free

Verse 3
Aloft upon these lovely wings
Everything inside me sings
Far from those confining things
Those frowning clowns, those poison stings
I go, I grow,
I flow, I glow

Verse 4
Today I am a butterfly
Flying to a better sky
Not another bitter sigh
To utter as I flutter by
So high, so high
Goodbye, goodbye

11. Have a Good Time:

Happiness becomes possible when consciousness is focused entirely in the here and now moment. Then, many kinds of fulfillment can be realized.

Have a good time, have a good time
Everybody loves to have a good time
From the ridiculous to the sublime
Everybody loves to have a good time

Verse 1
You can make your work play, just have a good time
And once you get your pay, go have a good time
It’s a beautiful day, so have a good time
Don’t delay, go have a good time

Have a good time, have a good time
Everybody loves to have a good time
From the ridiculous to the sublime
Everybody loves to have a good time

Verse 2
Well, the way to relate is to have a good time
Or rehabilitate, try to have a good time
Are you looking for a mate, just have a good time
Don’t hesitate, go have a good time

Eat when you’re hungry and sleep when you’re tired
Love when you’re loving and dance when you’re wired
Hug when you’re lonely and cry when you’re sad
Everybody does it and it ain’t so bad

Verse 3
Instead of making trouble just have a good time
And if you’re seeing double, got to have a good time
Blow a shiny bubble, and have a good time
Rockin’ in the rubble, gonna have a good time

La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la

Verse 4
If you want to find God, just have a good time
If you find it too hard to have a good time
Tell us what you want is to have a good time
You’ll get your reward, you’ll have a good time

Have a good time, have a good time
Everybody loves to have a good time
From the ridiculous to the sublime
Everybody loves to have a good time

12. Onward, Onward Ever Flow:

Inspired by this quote from the Book of Tao:

Nothing in the world is more gentle than water, yet nothing is stronger.
Water nurtures life, yet cuts through solid rock.
Overcome obstacles with the strength of gentleness.

The sheet music was first published in the book Being of the Sun, which I co-authored with Ramón Sender Barayón, in 1973.

Onward, onward flows the water
Quiet sounds and life below
Lapping soft against the earth’s side
Never stopping, ever flowing,
Onward, onward, ever flow.

Verse 1
Find me in the mountain meadows
If I go, I never know,
Find me smiling on the valley
Onward, onward ever flow

Onward, onward flows the water
Quiet sounds and life below
Lapping soft against the earth’s side
Never stopping, ever flowing,
Onward, onward, ever flow.

Verse 2
Sunshine humming on the mountains
Ever down the melting snow
River running in the valley,
Onward, onward ever flow

Verse 3
Rocks are stiff against the water
Never let their softness show
Soon are broken down to sand dunes
Onward, onward ever flow

Onward, onward flows the water
Quiet sounds and life below
Lapping soft against the earth’s side
Never stopping, ever flowing,
Onward, onward, ever flow.

13. Song of You and Me:

When two artists fall in love, they share not only their erotic and emotional attraction to one another, but mutual appreciation of their creativity, skills and knowledge as well.  Collaboration becomes part of their love dance.

Verse 1
Ever since I was thirteen years I played a steel guitar
And I dreamed of a man from a guitar band with a face like a movie star
Well, now we’re sitting face to face, singing harmony
It’s a love duet that I won’t forget, the song of you and me

Verse 2
You look at me so easy, smiling as you play
You’re one electric guitar man for a ukulele lei
Are you thinking of the moment that surely lies ahead
When we put aside our guitars and play drumbeats on the bed

Synch your rhythm with me, baby
Raise your action, let’s go crazy
Sing me a song and I’ll sing you a song
And we’ll listen to each other’s music all night long

Verse 3
My heart is pumping thunder, and stars light up my eyes
Your laid-back cowboy poet style kind of took me by surprise
You’re holding me and humming a love song you just wrote
I’m singing one to you right now that matches note for note

Synch your rhythm with me, baby
Raise your action, let’s go crazy
Sing me a song and I’ll sing you a song
And we’ll listen to each other’s music all night long

14. Yabyum:

The title (which means “father/mother” in Tibetan) describes a position used for tandem meditation, with the male seated cross-legged and the female straddling his lap, facing him. It is often depicted in Tibetan and Nepalese sacred paintings and sculpture. The partners gaze into one another’s eyes, aligning their breathing and heartbeats. This practice does not aim at creating orgasms or babies, but rather at raising kundalini (spiritual energy) through the chakras (energy centers of the body), raising consciousness beyond the ego and into oneness with the Universe.

Verse 1
Long we have grappled in the darkness
Enter the pyramid of light
Come, oh come and love me now
Enter the pyramid of light

Verse 2
Long we have fumbled through the curtains
Of fear and ego in the night
Come, let’s now be god and goddess
Come let’s be channels of the light

Bridge 1
Folded in a lotus on a shimmering lake
With all the cosmos swimming by
We will breathe together, beat our hearts together
Chakra to chakra, eye to eye

Verse 3
In your body is the presence
Of my angel spirit guide
In my aura, love eternal
That seeks to lift your fallen pride

Bridge 2
So, love you, love you, won’t you love yourself?
Love you, love you, it’s the wealth
That will sustain you and glorify you
Give you your freedom and your health

Verse 4
Divine beyond all human sorrow
Enter the pyramid of light
Ascend the throne your rightful home
Enter the pyramid of light

Ascend the throne your rightful home
Enter the pyramid of light

15. New Year’s Eve Party:

I love that there is a holiday that simply celebrates the passage of time. I spontaneously created the song “Goodbye 1974” at a New Year’s Eve party at Modelia studio on Maui, on December 31, 1973. The other musicians at the gathering, including dear Delia Moon (for whom the recording studio was named), made up more verses as we went along, and the song became a tradition for some years after that, with new verses added as the dates changed. So, now I am inviting anyone who would like to join us in this song, to create new verses at New Year’s Eve parties to come. (Note: this recording of this song plays at the end of the credits of the dramatic film “Lane 1974,” written and directed by Delia Moon’s daughter SJ Chiro in 2017.)

Goodbye 1974, we’ve seen the last of you
Goodbye 1974, we sang until you were through

Verse 1
I remember the birthdays when they all came ‘round
We danced ‘til both feet rose off of the ground
I remember the sights, I remember the sounds of 1974

Goodbye 1974, we’ve seen the last of you
Goodbye 1974, we sang until you were through

Verse 2
I remember the time I got so high
It maybe was June, or maybe July
I laughed ‘til the tears rolled out of my eyes in 1974

Goodbye 1974, we’ve seen the last of you
Goodbye 1974, we sang until you were through

Verse 3
And now that we’ve made it to ‘75
I’m glad that we all came through it alive
It looks like we all are gonna survive ‘til 1976

Spoken word:
Now you can customize this song for any New Year’s Eve you happen to be celebrating. Just change the year and write a new third verse! I’d love to hear it if you do.

Goodbye 1974, we’ve seen the last of you
Goodbye 1974, we sang until you were through

Sang until you were through
Sang until you were through
Sang until you were through

16. Last Song of the Night:

This song recalls those gorgeous nights without electricity, when we retired from singing around the campfire together, to our simple, hand-built, candle-lit, dwellings. The sheet music was first published in the book Being of the Sun, which I co-authored with Ramón Sender Barayón, in 1973.

Verse 1
It’s the last song of the night
It’s the last song of the night
We’re going to lie down
But we’ll still hear the sound
Of the last song of the night.

Verse 2
It’s the last song of the night
It’s the last song of the night
We’re going to our beds
But echoed in our heads
Is the last song of the night.

Verse 3
It’s the last song of the night
It’s the last song of the night
We’re going to sleep
But in our hearts we’ll keep
The last song of the night

It’s the last song of the night.

17. Paisley Days (1986):

Paisley-printed Madras bedspreads bedecked many a floor mattress in psychedelic households during the late 1960s and early 1970s. By the mid-1980s, the great blossoming of the flower children had all but disappeared, although some of the rural communes quietly continued, and most of the political activists remained active. Many of my bohemian friends re-arranged their lives around providing a middle class upbringing for their children. I was studying music, working as a musician, and writing jazz tunes, including this one. It’s a sentimental review of the ’60s and ’70s, and also a decision to continue with the best of what I learned and lived then.

To my astonishment, the Paisley Days DID come back again – a decade later – with the Millennials and then the Zoomers, many of whom struggle mightily for environmental and social justice, and who are as proactive in creating creative, ethical and natural lives as we Boomer hippies were in our youth.

Verse 1
When will the paisley days come back again?
Sometimes I wonder with my old friends
We would always spare the rod
And each of us could talk to God
And poverty was chic in our paisley days

Verse 2
I used to hitchhike everywhere by myself
My faith was unshakeable and so was my health
Costume tatters we would wear
Beneath the wildness of our hair
We said “Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it” in our paisley days

Bridge 1
We were survivors who boycotted war
We were living proof that less is more
We thought we’d outnumber the rich and their guns
By showing that sharing could be much more fun

Verse 3
Perhaps we were blind, fashion passed us by
And as we got older, our ideals didn’t fly
Upwardly mobile now, good consumers anyhow
Sometimes we felt ashamed of our paisley days

Bridge 2
But we were pioneers of inner space
We dreamed of a peaceful human race
For music we gathered half a million strong
Blind you may say, but I don’t think we were wrong

Verse 4
Friends, “peace and love” is still all right with me
And freedom includes non-conformity
I’m gonna try to seek the Light, and cheer for men who will not fight
And live the simple ways of my paisley days

Praise the simple ways of my paisley days
Praise the simple ways of my paisley days
I praise the simple ways of my paisley days

An image of Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park on a postcard I drew and published in 1970.
Robert Altman’s photograph of Hippie Hill in 1967. Hibiscus, the leader of the theatrical troupe, The Cockettes, is dancing.

I Meet Yoshimoto Banana

September 29, 2009

I come to Kurkku’s complex in Haragyuku for an interview by Switch Magazine, that will be a conversation between me and Japan’s beloved novelist Yoshimoto Banana (last name first is customary here, and her first name is pronounced BAH-nah-nah.)

In spring 2008, Kurkku hosted the first of what became four art shows of the original drawings and page layouts of Living on the Earth. I was delighted to hear that Banana-san had purchased my self-portrait that appears on the epilogue page of the book. She’s 15 years younger than I am, and the book was a favorite of her childhood. So, she said, she felt almost in a dream to purchase this drawing she had gazed upon so long ago.

Fujii-san, a rock and roll producer who is a friend of Banana-san’s and a friend of Keisuke Era’s (he’s the director at Kurkku) offered to introduce me and Banana-san, and Switch Magazine offered to document this event. So, here we are: Takeshi Fujii, Yoshimoto Banana, me, Miho Kawaguchi (writing for Switch), Kaori Miyagi (translating for me) and Kengo Tarumi (taking photos for Switch).

OMG! We showed up wearing the SAME EXACT T-SHIRT! It’s the Being of the Sun illustration licensed by Aya Noguchi (fashion designer and owner of Bed and Balcony) last year for her summer line.

But that wasn’t the only coincidence. After the interview was over, Banana went out to the street and there stood our dear friend in common – Sandii Manumele, vocalist extraordinaire and hula teacher of hundreds of Tokyo students, including Banana. Sandii rushed upstairs to see me and we had a happy group hug.

I had last seen Sandii at a huge rock concert memorial for Donto in Okinawa City in 2006. She danced and sang in the show, and I sang one of my songs, too. We became instant friends.

Sandii choreographed the hula for Donto’s classic song “Nami,” which women all over Japan love to dance. I just recorded “Nami” on my recent CD, Beyond Living, both in the original Japanese lyrics, and also in a Hawaiian and English translation. I was happy to present both Sandii and Banana with signed copies of my new CD.

Here‘s Banana-san’s blog about the same meeting (in Japanese).

Beyond Living – Reviews

Back cover (tray card) of Beyond Living

buy Beyond Living

Review by H.V. Cramond for Feminist Review, March 28, 2010

As the title of this album suggests, Beyond Living is a collection of folk songs about death, many of them written by musicians who have passed. Alicia Bay Laurel, known for her 1971 guide to sustainable living entitled Living On Earth, collected and recorded many of the songs on this album in response to a number of deaths she encountered in recent years, including, most notably, legendary Japanese singer-songwriter Takashi Donto Kudomi, who died in 2001 at a hula performance. Songs from artists from several countries round out this decidedly international album.

While the album’s theme might suggest darkness, the album feels more like a celebration. As Laurel’s liner notes suggest “lyrics about death contain valuable instructions for living,” and these songs are no exception. Their cheery melodies, vocals, and a fingerpicked guitar mix with deep sadness in the manner I associate with children’s songs (Remember when you found out “Ring-Around-the-Rosie” was about The Plague?) The album invites the listener to engage with the certainty of death and to feel the relish that reality brings to living. Much like listening to the blues, listening to these songs provides a deep and pleasurable access to human emotion.

Review by multi-platinum-selling singer/songwriter Joe Dolce in his weekly newsletter, sent 09-25-09:

What I’m Listening to This Week
‘Beyond Living’ – Alicia Bay Laurel. This is the most recent release of my friend, Alicia Bay Laurel, with whom Lin Van Hek and I will be performing with in Okinawa and Tokyo next month. Alicia is one of the few real visionary freaked-out flower children from the 70s who has grown even further into the great dream of the Beloved Community that we all shared back then. She also had a Number One hit, so to speak, in her 20s, with a New York Times best-selling book, Living on the Earth, which changed her life, and it is an inspiration to know someone who continues to reinvent herself – without disowning her past.

Alicia and I were also both close to, and sang with, the girl who introduced me to California hippie communes back in the 70s, Janet ‘Sunny’ Supplee, and the spirit of Sunny hovers throughout this recording. Sometimes, listening to Alicia sing, I swear Sunny is in the building. Sunny and I sang together for a couple of years and she certainly influenced me in an unforgettable way. She was killed in a car crash in Maui and I still miss her.

Beyond Living collects a master’s bouquet of beautiful songs about Death that do not drag death down into the valley of shadow and fear where old time religion would like to keep it penned up, but releases it out into the empowering light and flight of warm meadows and possibilities. Alicia has included the song I wrote and sang at my own father’s funeral, Hill of Death, with lyrics by Australian feminist pioneer, Louisa Lawson, drunken Henry’s mum.

While in LA, I was lucky enough to be able to sing and play with her on this recording. I was surprised at first when the tasty, awesome, I-am-the-Fingers-of-God mandolin part I had recorded was nowhere to be found in the final mix, but after a couple of listens, I understood why it went to the cutting room floor (along with Satan, Everlasting Hell and the Edsel.) It’s not necessary. Alicia’s last album, What Living’s All About, was an eclectic brew of styles, electric guitar solos, even rap – but this one, a unique fusion of Hawaiian and Japanese sensibility, is smoothly unified by the continuity of Alicia’s lullaby-like singing and precision finger-picking guitar, the latter most notably in the fifteen minute closing instrumental, Ruminations, which is a collage of no less than fifteen tunes: Amazing Grace, The Garden, Is This Not the Land of Beulah, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Oh Come Angel Band, Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet, Angels Are Watching Over Me, This Little Light of Mine, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Bosan Gokko, Hill of Death, Long Black Veil, Good Night Irene, We Shall All Be Reunited, and Kumbaya – and leading to the final Hawaiian, Aloha Oe’. I wouldn’t mind at all having these fifteen minutes playing in my final hour.

There are also three tracks written by Takashi Donto Kudomi, a legendary Japanese new wave rock star turned spiritual singer/songwriter, who died mysteriously on January 23, 2001. He, his wife and their two young sons were watching a hula performance dedicated to Pele, the volcano goddess, at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. At the end of the final chant, Donto fell to the ground unconscious, and was rushed to the hospital. The next day he was pronounced dead at age 37 from a brain aneurism. He had been in perfect health until that day. We will be staying and singing with Donto’s widow, Sachiho, in Okinawa, at Donto-in, the temple Sachiho built in his honor.

One of my favourite tracks is the quirky Altid Frejdig Naar du Gaar (Courage Always When You Walk) with melody by C.E.F. Weyse, 1838, lyrics: Christian Richardt, 1867, set into verse by Alicia. It is often sung at funerals in Denmark and is faithfully sung here in Danish. Just voice and stand-up bass, played masterfully by Chris Conner and reminiscent of her great version of Nature Boy, on What Living’s All About, the vocal seems to float in and out of ordinary tonality like a ghostly dandelion puff. One day, I do hope Alicia gets a chance to put out an album of just vocal and stand-up bass recordings, as they are always a pleasure, and a challenge, to listen to.

Review by Gerald Van Waes, host of “Psyche Van Het Folk” (a psychedelic folk radio show in Antwerp, Belgium) on his website, November 20, 2009

Alicia Bay Laurel : Beyond Living (US, 2009)

A bit different from Alicia’s previous albums, this is a conceptual piece of songs to be meant as a tuning in to a spiritual good vibration and feeling, on moments when people have passed over. When Alicia suddenly saw many related and befriended people pass over, it seemed as if she had no other option but to give all this an accompanying meaning; she started to collect songs from different countries to express this.

It starts strongly, with a Hawaiian opening chant which leads to a song inspiration, as a special moment (or person) to remember. The second song is an Australian folk gospel song, a folk version in which the backing vocals gives an Americana gospel feeling. Next we hear a traditional Japanese song, accompanied by harmonium and congas and vocals. Also this one has gospel flavours, reminiscent a bit of ‘Amazing grace’, being a more delicate, religious almost Christmas-sphere sphere. After its vocal parts with high voices (in Japanese), there’s some spoken word by Alicia giving more reference in the song. “Waltzing with Angels” sounds more like a country children song with a Hawaiian effect on the way the mandolin is played, with a happy feeling or energy. The song with original Danish lyrics by Christian Richardt (1867) is sung with a Marilyn Monroe song voice, and accompanied with bass only.

“The Garden” is again more countryesque, is sung with nice dual voices, leaving a Hawaiian feeling. “Auntie Nona” sounds like a happy children’s song, old music. The next small song has more religious Christian lyrics which appeal less to me. Also here gospel and country-flavours are mixed nicely. “Nami” turns back to Japan but leaves traces of Hawaii. On “Ruminations” we finally return to the “Amazing Grace” song, turning after a short while into a slow Hawaiian guitar medley on acoustic guitar. Also the last instrumental is a guitar piece with references to
Hawaiian melodies.

Except as a dedication to the subject, the album is as much a dedication to spheres provoked from Hawaiian songs and music, to spirituality in gospel music, as quietly privately experienced music, and the fresh kindness of children songs, and a touch of country. All of this is omnipresent throughout with a happy inner strength and positivism towards life and thankfulness to people and their lives.

Raves for Beyond Living CD

BL cover at 96 dpi

buy Beyond Living

Aloha Alicia,

As my mom and I were and are fans of your work, I appreciate your staying in touch.

Moana and I send tons of aloha and wish you good luck with your music.

Thank you for helping us to keep my mom’s work alive in the world.

Me Ke Aloha,

Keola Beamer
Legendary vocalist/guitarist/songwriter
Son of Hawaiian Renaissance pioneer/dancer/vocalist/songwriter/historian Auntie Nona Beamer
Lahaina, Hawaii

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Hi Alicia,

The interview is finished and runs about 63 minutes and features 5 live in-the-studio-songs (Hang Out & Breathe, Pain & Love, Love Understanding & Peace, Auntie Nona, and Doctor Sun & Nurse Water) and the rest from your new CD.

I did want to let you know we are now playing Aloha ‘Oe, Hill Of Death & The Garden in our regular new music rotation.

Once again the interview runs Wednesday May 5th at 10am on my show and then an encore airing on Friday, May 7th at 6pm.

Thank you and I hope you’re doing well!

Andy Olson
Owner/Operator/Radio Personality
Radio Free Phoenix

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

I want to send a mail just now!
What a perfect timing!
I listened your new CD! So beautiful. I cried……
I can feel your love and respect for Donto.
Now I am looking for Japanese distributor.
Tonight full moon is so beautiful and shining like you!
Sachiho Kojima, widow of Donto Kudomi
In the 1990s and 2000s, leader of the all-woman trance band Amana
In the 1980’s, leader of Japan’s first all-girl punk band, Zelda
Festival organizer
Naha, Okinawa, Japan


 I love Beyond Living! Very strong album though it sound extremely gentle!
Especially I like Nami and Hang Out and Breathe. It is surprisingly true that an artist have created her essential song in early days and gives it evolution.
Love, Setsuko
Setsuko Miura
television producer specializing in documentaries on the environment
Fujino, Japan


Got the CD, loving it, thanks!!!

Albert Bates
Ecovillage Training Center
The Farm, Summertown, Tennessee


Thank you for bringing the most wonderful people to us here at Hopi. I enjoyed teaching them of our way of life and I pray for you all  among the stars. Thank you for the CD that I received. I listen to it in the evening gazing among the skies.  Thank you and keep in contact.

Hopi Elder
Shungopavi Village, Arizona


FROM HIROMI KONDO, percussionist with Amana [band], and other bands
Konnichiwa! Arigato your new CD. So beautiful!
A lot of LOVE! Hiromi
Nanjo, Okinawa, Japan


Aloha e Alicia,

I wasn’t even going to fire up the computer tonight, but I received the CD, I just wanted to say pretty awesome and what an honor. Donto is whirling in the realm of Po. Aloha!
ke aloha wale, ka mahalo wale,
Ried Kapo Ku
Performer of traditional Hawaiian dance and chant
Vice President, Na Manupo Music
Torrance, California


Thank you for “beyond living”!
Your beautiful songs appreciating life and the beyond bring peace to my mind.
Kenichi Iyanaga
professor of mathematics
Ranzan, Saitama, Japan


Thanks for your new album.
I feel your voice is younger than last coming and guitar play is more beautiful!
I understand I love your world all over again!
Koki Aso
magazine journalist specializing in outdoor living

Hayama, Japan


We’re listening to it over & over.
Really love the way The Garden came out!
Also the beautiful slack key medley at the end.
Your BEST effort yet! Really nice.
Ellie LOVES the Nona Beamer song.
Looking UP,

Steve McGee
Singer/songwriter/guitarist/artist/boat captain
Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii


Hi Alicia,
I’m listening to your new CD.
From the opening this CD is unique.
Here’s a new experience of Nami. Joe Dolce and Amana…
I think I want start to sell this CDs soon.
I’m gonna play this CD almost everyday in Yukotopia.
Oh, Nami again, and peaceful instrumentals at last. This is a nice album.
Roku Uehara
Vocalist/guitarist/leader of the band HaZaMa
Former manager of Yukotopia night club
Tokyo, Japan


Alicia starts out with Hawaiian songs & then it seamlessly segues into a Japanese song & it was all ocean sounds somehow. Very beautiful. There’s an old Danish song (lovely) & the Danes are also ocean people. If you haven’t heard it yet, I recommend you get it.
Pam Hanna
Journalist and Political Writer
New Mexico


It’s so beautiful CD. My tears came. So moved. Arigato so much.
Satomi Yanagisawa
Jewelry maker and Craftsperson
Karuizawa, Nagano, Japan


I was particularly blown away by the 15-minute instrumental ending and the ingenious way you integrated ‘Hill of Death’ instrumentally into the timelessness of those classics. I have never thought of the song as just music before, but it works like that!
I also like how the common thread of all the songs is your finger-picking style which really stands on its own.
I’ve always thought that ‘Hill of Death’ felt like it could have come from the hills of 19th century Appalachia but you are only the second person to pick that up and the first to actually demonstrate it via that instrumental collage!
Joe Dolce
Melbourne, Australia


I love the CD!!!!!!!!!!!!! Everything from the Bosan Gokko to Auntie Nona and Ruminations. And what a nice surprise to see the photograph from Forest Hills. You are such a visionary…all I did was snap the shutter.

It works because it is so authentic…so thoroughly full of the heart and soul of YOU – and a true reflection of your bittersweet and tender feelings after so many loved ones passed on. I love that you are so inclusive in the explanations of your relationship to each song, lyric, and tradition. Your sound and FEEL puts down a deep tap root. Then the icing on the cake is your artistic nature-centric metaphor using the morning/mourning glory blossom to show the glowing light at the end of the physical life leading the way to the next adventure. And of course the piece de resistance is that you drew the blossoms and wrote the words in your own handwriting – enveloping the recording project with your SELF. Love it all. The whole shebang.

Ruthie Ristich
Jazz Vocalist and Professor at Berklee School of Music
Boston, Massachusetts


As soon as I got it, my mother and I listened to your CD and we love it!!!  And when my family held a BBQ party at a tiny garden, we enjoyed your music again.

Takako Minobe
Wakayama, Japan


My dearest amiga,

I have listened to your studio songs today (all 4 CD’s that I am aware of). “Beyond Living” is my favorite. Your playing and singing are impeccable. I think it’s quite possibly one of the greatest views on life I have ever witnessed.

Ricky Moore


Alicia, in my view this is your best recording yet!  The songs are so movingly beautiful, no matter which culture they are from.  Donto’s pieces are just beautiful.  Your performance is great.  The production is superb!  You have done amazing things with supporting voices and instrumentation.  You should be very very proud of yourself.  And I was very touched at your including Peter in the liner notes.  I think you have succeeded at reaching “Beyond Living” to a glorious and amazing place.

Linda Kane
Photographer and Filmmaker
Honomu, Hawaii


The CD is beautiful, eclectic and extremely well produced.
It is appropriately other-worldly.
Nami keeps going though my head like a continuous wave.
I LOVE the Donto tracks and the Donto memories.
Hill of Death sounds fresh and the medley is masterful.
The Danish piece is a treasure and a revelation.
Your guitar and vocals are so beautiful and they blend perfectly with the accompanist’s parts.
And you know me…I love good liner notes and you have written the BEST ones.
I’m one of those people that like “The Making Of…” even better than the movie, so good liner notes are a necessity.
This is a totally unique collection of authentic and personal music.
I feel like I peered into the pages of your “musical diary”.
I love the Hawaiian/Japanese flavor of it all.
Rock ON my courageous ONE!
Wildflower Revolution
Artist and Environmental Activist
Graton, California


Your new album has offered much consolation as Brandon and I mourn a good friend, a talented and spirited fiddle player. Your tunes fit so perfectly into my soul at the moment ~ THANK YOU. I would LOVE to plan a show together. I will put some feelers out.

Much love,
Gwendolyn Sanford
Singer/songwriter/guitarist/film composer
Los Angeles, California


What I’m Listening to This Week 11-05-09
Beyond Living – by Alicia Bay Laurel. Having just done three concerts with Alicia in Japan and Okinawa, these tunes are still floating through my head. A very unique artist and ahead-of-her-time writer.

Joe Dolce
Melbourne, Australia


I love your CD, such a wide collection of inspiration ~ today’s favorite – Hang Out & Breathe. My husband and I lived and worked in and around the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland for the last 10+ years. After he died last year I was guided to move over to Arizona, reconnect with the Earth and continue my work here. It is a blessing to have connected with you.

Jewels Hayden
Anam Aire ~ Soul Midwife


i LOVE the CD … 🙂 Beyond Living!
thank you for taking so much care in signing them so beautifully…its so lovely,…really ! GOOD JOB!

Vilma Lihau Daly


The CD is beautiful!  It brought me so much joy – I’ve already listened to it twice through.  It’s really a treasure!  Thank you for making so much beautiful music with so much heart.

Lytton Dove White
Environmentalist and Writer


I absolutely love your music.  The CDs are great, and now I have three of your special CDs.

Audrey Linden
Actress, Comedienne, and Teacher of Comedy Improvisation
Bevery Hills, CA


Aloha Dearest Alicia,

This is a mahalo to your from both Bruce and myself for the beautiful gift of your CD [Beyond Living]. We listened to it together as we commuted back and forth to Kapalua weddings – and we found it delightful. Bruce commented on how beautifully produced it is…A most wonderful collection of songs!

Rev. Kolleen O’Flaherty Wheeler
All Ways Maui’d Weddings and Ceremonies
Bruce Wheeler
Seventh Wave Photographics


Aloha our brilliant Alicia,

Thank you so much for sending us “Beyond Living”.
You literally went “beyond” in this lovely recording.
Bless you, dearest friend, for sharing your creations with us.
We love you.

Gloria and Barry Blum
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars

Reviewed on Amazon, March 5, 2017

(Anonymous customer)

Wonderful slack-key musings. Soothing and profound, diverse guitar music. Lovely voice.


I found the CD Beyond Living, so incredibly moving. I have also lost many people I love in the last several years too, and before, but especially recently, and the music you created really made me feel connected to those loved ones, loving them and celebrating them, as you were when you created this. I loved the “Waltzing with Angels” medley–I am familiar with Kitty Wells and Hank Williams but did not know the “Gathering Flowers” song. And the “Ruminations” medley was an incredibly complex masterpiece! I have no doubt that I will be enjoying these over and over and can’t wait to share them with my sister. I just had to write and tell you how much I enjoyed them.

Many blessings and good wishes to you,

Joy Massey
Author and Musician


Beyond Living: Fingerpicked Ruminations on the Hereafter and Its Messengers: Notes About, Liner Notes and Song Lyrics

buy Beyond Living

Beyond Living: Finger-picked Ruminations on the Hereafter and Its Messengers has come from the pressing plant this week. It’s a collection of charming antique and antique-sounding songs from the USA, UK, Australia, Japan, Hawaii and Denmark that focus on mortality, immortality, and a life that is mindful of spirit.

Along with my open-tuned guitar picking, singing and speaking, you’ll hear musicians from Japan, Hawaii, Australia, and the LA folk and jazz scenes, including Joe Dolce, Moira Smiley, James Kimo West, Ried Kapo Ku, the band Amana, Auntie Nona Beamer, Steve McGee, Ray Armando, Vic Koler, Chris Conner, and anime film songwriter, Tim Jensen.

On this particular CD, I wrote only two of the eleven cuts, but I wrote new English lyrics from translations of two songs by Donto, a legendary Japanese new wave rock star turned spiritual singer/songwriter, and one 19th century hymn in Danish.

I also commissioned a long overdue Hawaiian translation of Donto’s famous hula, “Nami,” by Auntie Nona Beamer’s adopted son Kaliko Beamer-Trapp, an instructor of Polynesian languages at University of Hawaii in Hilo, and an opening chant for it in the ancient Hawaiian style by the late recording artist and kumu hula, Ried Kapo Ku, which opens the CD.

I also had the gall to record a 12-minute guitar solo consisting of 15 different songs.

I had the liner notes and lyrics translated into Japanese so I could take it to Japan on my concert tours there. There are two different covers, but the CD itself is the same in both versions.

I painted the cover in watercolor pencils. My idea is that the Bardo looks like a quasar or a morning glory, which have the same mathematical shape.

Photo by Ruthie Ristich of Alicia Bay Laurel at Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts.

Beyond Living: Finger-picked Ruminations on the Hereafter and Its Messengers
Liner Notes and Song Lyrics

Music that contemplates death does not have to be heavy and dark; think of the songs typical of an Irish wake, a New Orleans funeral parade or the Mexican Day of the Dead.

 I collected and recorded these folk, Americana, gospel, Hawaiian, Australian, Danish and Japanese songs to honor the many I love who have passed on, and to uplift and comfort those who are grieving, providing hospice, or dying. However, even those not currently focused on the mystery of death and dying may find themselves dancing along to these sprightly tunes.  I find that, quite often, lyrics about death contain valuable instructions for living.

During 2007 and 2008, an inordinate number of people close to me died, some elderly, others in their middle years.  My mother and my father died on August 15, 2007.  They were 500 miles apart, and had not communicated in over 45 years.

I assumed responsibility for my mother’s care during the two years before her death, held her hand as she lay dying, arranged for her cremation, wrote her obituary, coordinated her memorial service, eulogized her, put her affairs in order, and remained in her home, settling her estate, for a year after. My sister did much the same while caring for our father.  We held hands over the phone, facing these challenges together, and still do.

Our parents’ simultaneous deaths came one month after the death of their friend Davida Solow, the mother of our friend since birth, Benida Solow, in whose home I lived while I cared for our mother.  A month before Davida’s passing, our adored Aunt Ruth Lebow died.  We’d known both of these women all our lives; their children were our earliest companions, and remain our friends today.

Auntie Nona Beamer, renowned Hawaiian singer/songwriter/dancer/storyteller, and my beloved mentor, died in April 2008.  That spring, two cherished artist friends, Mayumi Hirai and Mela MacVittie, perished from cancer in mid-life.  

Other dear friends and family members died shortly before or after: Peter Kane, Jacqueline Lynfield, Steve Gursky, Marty Jezer, Anson Chong, Fred Stoeber. My stepfather and Benida’s father-in-law, exactly two years apart.  My sister-in-law’s mom.  Both of my brother-in-law’s parents.  My cousin Jay Lebow.  A 40-year-old friend’s 64-year-old father. 

It seemed as if the door between the physical and the non-physical swung wide, and messages zinged both ways furiously.  I collected as many as I could. 

Then there’s the case of Donto.

Takashi “Donto” Kudomi, a legendary Japanese singer/songwriter, died mysteriously on January 23, 2001.  He, his wife and their two young sons were watching a hula performance dedicated to Pele, the volcano goddess, at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  At the end of the final chant, Donto fell to the ground unconscious, and was rushed to the hospital. The next day he was pronounced dead at age 37 from a brain aneurism.  He had been in perfect health until that day.  Returning a year later to Pele’s home at Halema’uma’u Crater, Donto’s wife beheld him as a rainbow.

Later in 2001, I met her, singer/songwriter/bassist Sachiho Kudomi, through Seawest Studios, near Pahoa, Hawaii, where we had both recorded CDs.  In 2002, I helped her organize a first-year memorial for Donto at Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin, a Buddhist temple in Hilo, and organized a Hawaii tour for Sachiho’s all-woman band, Amana. 

I have since performed with Sachiho and her band during three visits to Japan, at numerous events, including at a huge Donto memorial concert in 2006.  In May 2008, we recorded two of Donto’s songs for this CD at Donto-in, the temple Sachiho built in his honor, in Okinawa.  In January 2009, I debuted “Mele Nalu,” Kaliko Beamer-Trapp’s Hawaiian language interpretation of Donto’s famous hula, “Nami,” (Wave) at the final memorial for Donto at Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin.  Kaliko is Auntie Nona Beamer’s adopted son, a scholar of Polynesian languages teaching at the University of Hawaii, and a member of the von Trapp family of “Sound of Music” fame.

I first admired the songwriting of Steve McGee and Joe Dolce when I met them at the communes where we lived in northern California in the late ‘60s. In the early ‘70s, we all lived and composed songs on Maui. All of us made music in both places with the dazzling singer and midwife, the late Janet “Sunny” Supplee.  Her presence is particularly felt in this recording, since it was she who taught me the 19th century hymn “Oh Come, Angel Band” while we were living at Wheeler Ranch commune, where, at the time, I was writing and illustrating Living on the Earth, and Steve McGee was composing his song “The Garden.”  Joe Dolce went on to become a platinum-selling musician and songwriter in Australia and elsewhere.

Death teaches us that life is fragile, and therefore to make use of all available opportunities to be kind and to forgive.

Alicia Bay Laurel, Los Angeles, Spring 2009

*           *         *        *

This recording was conceived, arranged and produced by Alicia Bay Laurel, for Indigo With Stars Records.  Recorded, mixed and mastered (plus a lot of producer-type guidance) by Scott Fraser at his studio, Architecture, in Los Angeles, with additional recording as follows: Some of the parts for Nami, Mele Nalu and Bosan Gokko recorded in Okinawa at Donto-in by Kikou Uehara, some of the parts for Nami at Kazana Studio in Hirotsu, Japan by Tim Jensen, and some of the parts for The Garden and Nami at Maui Recording in Lahaina, Hawaii by Lynn Peterson. 

Liner notes by Alicia Bay Laurel, translated into Japanese by Reiko Ashidate.  Photo of Alicia Bay Laurel at Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, by jazz vocalist Ruthie Ristich.  Graphic design and cover painting by Alicia Bay Laurel. Digital layout preparation by Al Lopez.  Japanese digital layout preparation and calligraphy by Atsuko Sano.

A thousand thanks to those whose inspiration, kindness and generosity helped to make this CD possible: Joe Gallivan, Sachiho Kudomi, Yoko Nema, Hiromi Kondo, Reiko Ashidate, Nona Beamer, Keola and Moana Beamer, Kaliko Beamer-Trapp, Tim Jensen, Mayu Uotani, Joe Dolce, Scott Fraser, Lynn Peterson, Kikou Uehara, Mana Koike, Kaorico Ago, Ried Kapo Ku, Moira Smiley, James Kimo West, Ray Armando, Chris Conner, Vic Koler, Steve McGee, Naoshi Omote, Yukata Arata, Kohki, Yumiko Kawashima, Satomi Yanagisawa, Keisuke Era, Koki and Ayako Aso, Setsuko Miura, Yoko Utsumi, Kim Cooper, Ruthie Ristich, Rick and Donna Keefer, Atsuko Sano, Jessica Mercure, Benida Solow, Ron Grant, and Lea Grant.

Profound thanks and love to my mentors now gone to the spirit realm: Esther Silverstein Blanc, James Leo Herlihy, Jean Varda, Louis Gottlieb, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, John Fahey, Helen Nearing, Auntie Nona Beamer, Uncle Sol Kawaihoa and Auntie Clara Kalalau Tolentino.

THE SONGS Note: Some of these songs have lyrics that were not sung or only a portion of which were sung.  I include here only the lyrics that were actually sung (or spoken).

1. Mele Nalu (Song of the Wave) by Donto Kudomi, (1997 Goma Records JASRAC). Donto’s famous hula, Nami, translated into English by Reiko Ashidate, re-interpreted as English lyrics by Alicia Bay Laurel, 2008, and re-interpreted as Hawaiian lyrics by Kaliko Beamer-Trapp, 2008. The song opens with a Hawaiian chant composed and performed by Ried Kapo Ku, (2009 Na Manupo Music). Alicia Bay Laurel (vocal, guitar), Ried Kapo Ku (vocal, ipu heke [Hawaiian gourd drum]), James Kimo West (guitar), and Sachiho Kudomi (electric bass guitar).        

Opening chant:

‘Ae, he mele nalu no Donto

(Here then, a wave song for Donto)

Ha’alele a’e ‘oe i ke ao nei

(You leave this world)

Ho’opili ‘ia i ka poli o Pele

(Drawn to the bosom of Pele)

Me ka wiwo’ole i kou pono

(Unafraid because of your righteous goodness)

E kali mäkou ma kahakai

(We wait on the shore)

No kou pane ë

(For your reply)

Aia lä!  Ke änuenue!

(Behold!  The rainbow!)
Eia au i ka poli o ka nalu

He mele kaʻu e mele aku ai

Ka huna kai e pulu nei

I ke ʻehu o ke kai

Palena ʻole, launa ʻole

Kani ʻole ka leo o ka nalu

ʻO kuʻu leo ke kāhea nei

Lohe ʻole ʻia mai nō

Auhea-hea-hea wale ʻoe

Auhea-hea-hea e ka nalu

Auhea-hea-hea wale ʻoe

E ō, e pane mai nō

Riding waves that praise the island

Waves of tears are falling down my face

Is this the place beyond all knowing?

Far beyond the singing of the waves.

Waves can weary with pollution

But the waves always continue to appear

Come on, waves, give me an answer

Let me know you know I’m here

Hear me, hear me, hear me, hear me, ocean!

Answer as I call to you once more.

Hear me, hear me, hear me, hear me, ocean!

I am listening from your shore.

Oneone ē ka nalu

Kāwili pū i ka lepo o ke kai

Mau nō naʻe ka poʻi o ka nalu

A pau loa ke ao nei

Inā hoʻi ua lohe ʻoe

Pane mai i ke kani o kuʻu leo   
E nānā mai i ʻike maila

ʻO au nō ke lana nei

2. Hill of Death by Joe Dolce (melody, 2004) and Louisa Lawson (lyrics, first published in Louisa’s late 19th century Australian feminist newspaper, The Dawn, and later in her 1905 poetry collection The Lonely Crossing) Dolceamore Music APRA (Australia).  In 2004, Hill of Death won the Best Folk Gospel Award in the Australian Gospel Awards. Alicia Bay Laurel (vocal, guitar), Joe Dolce (vocal), James Kimo West (guitar) and Chris Conner (upright bass).

No downward path to death we go
Through no dark shades or valleys low,
But up and on o’er rises bright
Toward the dawn of the endless light.
For not in lowlands can we see
The path that was and that to be,
But on the highlands, just where the soul
Takes deeper breaths to reach the goal.
No downward path to death we go
Through no dark shades or valleys low,
But up and on o’er rises bright
Toward the dawn of the endless light.
There we can see the winding way
That we have journeyed all our day,
Then turn and view with spirits still
Our future home beyond the hill.

3. Bosan Gokko (The Monk Song) by Donto Kudomi (1995 Yano Music JASRAC), plus Yamadera No Oshosan, a traditional Japanese children’s song. Translation of both songs by Reiko Ashidate and Yoko Nema, set into English verse by Alicia Bay Laurel, 2008. The piece opens with the first lines of Shoshinge, a sutra by Shinran Shonin (1173-1262), the founder of Pure Land Buddhism, translated by Yoko Nema. Sachiho Kudomi (vocal, electric bass guitar), Yoko Nema (vocal, harmonium), Hiromi Kondo (djembe), Ray Armando (congas), and Alicia Bay Laurel (guitar and spoken word).

(Translation of opening lines of Shoshinge)
I take refuge in Amitabha Buddha,
Who has eternal life,
And light beyond human knowledge.
(Translation of Bosan Gokko)
On the mountain, the temple bell tolls.
The aroma of supper greets me.
Potatoes cooked with tofu;
Let us say grace and enjoy it.
No electronic sounds at the temple.
When I hear ravens call, I go home.
Yes, I would be really comfortable
Living in the temple.
A candle burns in the silent temple hall,
Before dawn, the time of the wisdom of the universe.
The sun rises. Wake up!
I am a pillar of Japan.
So long I gaze at the lotus
Blooming in the pond of the garden.
Head shaven and devoted to the temple,
I am reincarnated into this world again.
Take care until I see you again
Live and let live.
Live and let live.
(Rough translation of Yamadera No Oshosan, a traditional Japanese children’s song)
High on the mountain, there is a temple.
In the temple, there is a priest.
The priest wants to play with a ball
But, there is no ball.
The priest is longing to play with a ball
But, there is no ball.
So the priest plays with a cat.

4. Waltzing with Angels (medley): Alicia Bay Laurel (vocal, guitar), Moira Smiley (vocal), and Vic Koler (mandolin and upright bass).Oh Come, Angel Band (The Land of Beulah) by Jefferson Hascall 1876. Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet by Marvin E. Baumgardner, (1940 Stamps-Baxter Music BMI). Gathering Flowers was a hit in 1947 for Miss Kitty Wells, “The Queen of Country Music,” both as a solo and in duet with Hank Williams, Sr. I alternate between the two songs here.

Oh Come, Angel Band

My latest sun is sinking fast;
My race is almost run.
My greatest trials now are past;
My triumph has begun.
Oh come, angel band,
Come and around me stand.
Bear me away on your snowy wings
To my immortal home.
I’ve almost found my heavenly home
My spirit softly sings.
The holy ones, behold they come,
I hear the sound of wings.

Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet

Death is an angel sent down from above,
Sent for the buds of the blooms that we love.
For it is so we must all pass away,
Our souls to be flowers in the Master’s bouquet.
Gathering flowers for the Master’s bouquet,
Beautiful flowers that will never decay,
Gathered by angels and carried away
Forever to bloom in the Master’s bouquet.
Loved ones are dying each day and each hour,
Passing away like the life of a flower,
But we shall all be together some day
Transplanted to bloom in the Master’s bouquet.

5. Altid Frejdig, Når du Går (Courage, Always, When You Walk) Melody by C.E.F. Weyse, 1838, lyrics by Christian Richardt, 1867, English translation by Jessica Mercure, set into verse by Alicia Bay Laurel. Alicia Bay Laurel (sung and spoken vocal), Chris Conner (upright bass). Often performed at funerals in Denmark, this hymn served as a rallying call in the struggle against the occupation of Denmark from 1940 to 1945.

Altid frejdig, når du går
(Courage, always, when you walk)
Veje, Gud tør kende,
(On paths only God may know,)
Selv om du til målet når
(Even if you don’t reach your goal)
Først ved verdens ende.
(Until the end of time.)

Aldrig ræd for mørkets magt!
(Fear not the powers of darkness!)
Stjernerne vil lyse;
(The stars will shine.)
Med et fadervor i pagt
(With the Lord’s Prayer as your pact)
Skal du aldrig gyse.
(You will not quake with fear.)

Kæmp for alt, hvad du har kært;
(Fight for all you hold dear.)
Dø, om så det gælder,
(Die, if you must.)
Da er livet ej så svært,
(Then life is not so hard,)
Døden ikke heller.
(And neither is death.)

6. The Garden by Steve McGee, 1969 (self-published).  About finding heaven on earth. Alicia Bay Laurel (vocal, guitar), Steve McGee (vocal, lead guitar), James Kimo West (rhythm guitar), and Vic Koler (upright bass).     

And it’s a hard rocky road that we’re going down,
And I know we won’t make it by ourselves.
For it’s love and believing in what we have found
That will take us to the garden that the Great One has grown.
Love, only love, can take you there
To the place where we all can be free.
Love, only love, is the way to find peace;
It’s the answer to all that we need.
And it’s a place where the people are filled with joy,
And it’s a place where we all can be free to roam.
Where the music flows as though it came from above,
It’s a place that we all can call our own.

7. Auntie Nona/Kahuli Aku/Pupu Hinuhinu  Auntie Nona by Alicia Bay Laurel (2008 Bay Tree Music ASCAP), Kahuli Aku by Nona Beamer, (circa 1955), Pupu Hinuhinu by Nona Beamer (circa 1955), sample from The Story of Pua Polu by Nona Beamer, 1996, on her gorgeous CD collaboration with Keola Beamer, The Golden Lehua Tree (all from Starscape Music ASCAP). Alicia Bay Laurel (vocal, guitar), James Kimo West (guitar), and Chris Conner (upright bass).

Dear Auntie Nona, mother of aloha,
Songwriter, storyteller of our isles,
We loved your twinkling eyes; we loved your gentleness;
We loved your intellect, your heart and smiles.
A leader of community who fostered peace and dignity
Always with serenity, yet practical,
Keeper of the ancient chants, you could do a rascal dance,
Sing about Hawaiian plants and animals.
(Melody of Kahuli Aku)
You taught the children hula and decency
Your songs with nature themes, Hawaiian nursery rhymes.
These songs went on to be classics of the repertoire,
Along with your stories of your life and times.
Hula girl in Waikiki, Columbia University,
Taught for half a century, Kamehameha School.
Beamer family music camps, Mauna Kea oil lamps,
Soon your face will be on stamps because you’re so cool.
(Melody of Pupu Hinuhinu)
Please, Auntie Nona, from your perch in heaven,
Visit our memories and our dreams.
Angel of aloha, bless us with peacefulness,
Beamer of love and light, send your beams!
You kept an open mind; your eyes were color-blind;
You welcomed every kind who came to learn.
You loved the mountains high; you loved the ocean side;
You traveled far and wide, and returned.
(Melody of Kahuli Aku and the ending of Pupu Hinuhinu)
(Voice of Auntie Nona) Yes, you are always loved.

8. Hang Out and Breathe by Alicia Bay Laurel (1969 Bay Tree Music ASCAP). Alicia Bay Laurel (vocal, guitar), Joe Dolce (vocal), James Kimo West (guitar) and Vic Koler (upright bass).

What I want to do now is hang out and breathe,
Take care of the family at hand,
Live in the moment and be who I am,
For things may go different than that which we planned.
Oh happy most wonderful,
Hang out and breathe ’til I die.
Meet my Creator with open heart,
Surrender my body with joy in my eyes.
When I can remember to hang out and breathe,
And let all my worrying cease,
Thing can go crazy and things can go fine;
I’ll be a love fountain in a garden of peace.
Oh happy most wonderful,
Hang out and breathe ’til I die.
Meet my Creator with open heart,
Surrender my body with joy in my eyes.
Nothing is more simple than to hang out and breathe,
You’d think that’s what all of us do.
We come to this planet to live and to learn,
So don’t hold your breath ’til your wishes come true.

9. Nami (Wave) by Donto Kudomi, (1997 Goma Records JASRAC). Alicia Bay Laurel (vocal, guitar), James Kimo West (guitar), Sachiho Kudomi (electric bass guitar), Hiromi Kondo (djembe), and Naoshi Omote (congas, surdo, cajon, rainstick, and assorted hand percussion). Choir: Sachiho Kudomi, Hiromi Kondo, Yoko Nema, Mayu Uotani, Tim Jensen, Yukata Arata, Kohki, Alicia Bay Laurel.  

In this, the original Japanese version, I envision the song sung by friends, sitting around a campfire on the beach under a starry sky, playing drums and guitars.

10. Ruminations (medley): Alicia Bay Laurel (guitar and arrangement)

Amazing Grace, traditional Celtic melody, lyrics by John Newton, 1779, The Garden by Steve McGee, 1969, Is This Not the Land of Beulah? by Harriet Warner ReQua, 1890, Will the Circle Be Unbroken by Charles H. Gabriel (melody) and Ada H. Habershon (lyrics), 1908, Oh Come, Angel Band by Jefferson Hascall, 1876, Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet by Marvin E. Baumgartner (1940 Stamps-Baxter Publishing BMI), Angels Are Watching Over Me Traditional African-American Hymn,  This Little Light of Mine Traditional African-American Hymn,  Swing Low, Sweet Chariot Traditional African-American Hymn,  Bosan Gokko by Donto Kudomi (1995 Yano Music JASRAC), Hill of Death by Joe Dolce (melody, 2004) and Louisa Lawson (lyrics, circa 1895) (Dolceamore Music APRA), Long Black Veil by Marijohn Wilkin and Danny Dill (1959 Universal Cedarwood BMI),  Good Night Irene  traditional folk song, first recorded by Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly) in 1934 for the Library of Congress. (Ludow Music and Andite Invasion), We Shall All Be Reunited by B. Bateman and Alfred Karnes (1929 Peer International BMI), Kumbaya (Come by Here, My Lord) Traditional African-American Hymn

11. Aloha ‘Oe (Farewell to Thee) by Queen Liliuokalani, 1878. Not penned for someone dying, but rather to a beloved to whom one expects to return.  Alicia Bay Laurel (guitar), and James Kimo West (guitar)

Floozy Places Again

Alicia Bay Laurel performs her prize-winning song, “Floozy Tune” at Yukotopia night club in Umejima, Tokyo, in 2010.

December 12, 2008

“Floozy Tune,” the opening cut of my blues/jazz CD, What Living’s All About, has garnered a runner-up position in yet a THIRD songwriting contest, this time as a Finalist in the 100% Music Songwriting Contest.

In summer 2008, “Floozy Tune” received Honorable Mention (7th place) in the World division (which includes jazz), in the Indie International Songwriting Contest

The first award for “Floozy Tune” was in the Top 20 Finalists in the Jazz Division of the Unisong International Songwriting Contest, in 2007.

My Hawaiian Hanukkah Song Rides Again!

My Hawaiian Hanukkah song, Festival of Lights, has been getting some airplay from podcasters this year. You can listen to it here.

Festival of Lights was podcasted on Washington Travel Cast 12-01-07

Festival of Lights was podcasted on EdÂ’s Mixed Bag 12-15-07

Festival of Lights was podcasted on Podcast Ping 12-17-07

Festival of Lights was podcasted on Power Ogg 12-18-07

Festival of Lights was podcasted on Becoming 12-20-07

Alicia Bay Laurel’s Music Bio

I sing at the opening party of “Dancing with Nature,” my multi-decade retrospective solo art exhibition at Sison Gallery in Shibuya, Tokyo on September 1, 2018. The event was filmed as part of a television documentary about my life and work for Asahi Television.

I am wearing a wool jersey dress printed with the pages of my book, Living on the Earth. Both the dress and the fabric were designed in 2007 by fashion designer Aya Noguchi, the owner of Sison Gallery

Marinated from birth in the world music, political folk music, classical music, jazz and Broadway tunes my parents played on the hi-fi, I succeeded (after two years of begging) in starting piano lessons at age seven, played a credible version of the Bumble Bee Boogie by age twelve, and was levitated into learning folk guitar and writing songs after seeing Bob Dylan play his powerful protest songs, shortly before I turned fourteen. A couple of years later, my cousin Jan Lebow married John Fahey, and one day I approached him when he was bored at a family party and persuaded him to teach me the basics of open tunings in the next two hours.  I practiced like crazy, and that became my sound.

Most of my musician friends played rock and roll, so I was overjoyed when I first visited Hawaii in 1969 and discovered that open-tuned guitar finger-picking was part of the national music.

In 1974, I moved to Maui. There I learned to play slack key guitar and sing Hawaiian songs in Hawaiian from the family of recording artist G-girl Keli’iho’omalu, especially her mother, legendary singer, hula teacher and choreographer, Auntie Clara Kalalau Tolentino. I learned slack key guitar from Clara’s son-in-law Jerome Smith in Hana, and from Uncle Sol Kawaihoa in Wailuku.

In the early ‘80’s, I began playing in restaurants and bars for tourists in Hawaii and in northern California. Over a period of twenty-eight years I studied vocal technique with seven teachers, including pop singer/songwriter Pamela Polland.  I also took lessons, at least one, and sometimes many, from an uncountable number of guitarists – including a couple of years of weekly lessons from renowned Hawaiian jazz singer/guitarist Sam Ahia.

My lifelong love of slightly sardonic vocal jazz (the first LP I bought at age 13 was “Local Color” by Mose Allison) led me to learn a repertoire of jazz standards and the jazz chords I needed to accompany myself. In the late ‘80’s I started playing at weddings and learned love songs of many genres. From 1988 to 1999 I owned a wedding business on Maui that put on 3000 weddings, and I sang at hundreds of them, sometimes accompanying a troop of hula dancers.

Pamela Smit DePalma's Maui wedding in the 1990s, with ABL serenading

In 2000, Random House released the thirtieth anniversary edition of Living on the Earth. I sold the wedding business and created for myself a national book tour: a twice-cross-country road tour for eight months, delivering 75 performances of Living on the Earth: The Musical, an original one-woman, two-act show of quirky, edgy stories about the birth and aftermath of my book, and some of the songs I wrote during these times.  I self-produced Music From Living on the Earth, a solo CD of the spiritual and nature-inspired songs I wrote while creating the book, to sell from the bandstand, and, to my astonishment, it was not only reviewed but selected as an album pick on All Music Guide. Then Gerald van Waes’ psychedelic folk radio show in Antwerp, Belgium, “Psyche Van Het Folk,” started playing it. Then EM Record in Osaka, Japan released it, as a CD in 2005 and as a vinyl LP in 2015.

06-20-CA-Sebastopol-Copperfield's-Alicia seated-smiling

When I returned to Hawaii from the tour, I self-produced Living in Hawaii Style, a CD of half original Hawaiian-style songs and half historic Hawaiian songs, mostly slack key guitar and tropical jazz. The CD features my former teacher, Sam Ahia, arguably the best jazz guitarist/vocalist in the islands, and Lei’ohu Ryder, a reknowned spiritualist and chanter with a string of fantastic CDs of her own. This CD got airplay both in Hawaii and on the legendary Ports of Paradise radio show in California, was re-released by EM Records in Japan, and, in July 2002, I was the only woman headlining at the Big Island Slack Key Guitar Festival in Hilo, Hawaii.

07-21-02-HI-Hilo-Slack Key Fest-Alicia and Bobo onstage2

Two of my music mentors are avant-garde improvisational musicians. Ramón Sender Barayón, one of the founding composers of the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the early ‘60’s, and co-designer of the Buchla Box, the first synthesizer built on the west coast, who I met, during the time I was writing Living on the Earth, at Wheeler Ranch commune, co-authored a book with me, Being of the Sun, containing his wealth of knowledge about drones, modes and tunings, plus songs and chants we composed together and separately, celebrating the cycles of nature.  In 2013, I arranged to have the 1973 reel-to-reel recording Ramón had made of us performing music from our book digitized and remastered, and released it as a CD, Songs from Being of the Sun.

In the late ‘90’s, I began partnering with Joe Gallivan, a stalwart of the free-jazz world in New York and in Europe.  He developed a sound vocabulary for the MiniMoog synthesizer, worked with Robert Moog as the test driver of the Moog drum, and was among the first to play these instruments in a jazz setting, including in the Gil Evans Orchestra for two years and in a trio with legendary organist Larry Young for three years. Joe lead bands full of extraordinary players throughout his adult life.  An entire section was devoted to him in the 4th edition (1998) of the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD.

While my first CD, Music from Living on the Earth, contains a choral arrangement of my song “In the Morning” by Ramón, and my sixth CD, Songs from Being of the Sun, is entirely a collaboration with him,  Joe’s influence is most evident in my 3rd release, What Living’s All About, recorded by Scott Fraser (audio engineer and producer for the Kronos Quartet) and a fabulous line-up of session players, notably avant-garde guitar legend Nels Cline (best known as the guitarist with Wilco, and who I met when his band opened for Joe Gallivan’s band at the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival in New York City in June 2000), and John B. Williams, bassist for Nancy Wilson, the Manhattan Transfer, the Tonight Show Big Band and the Arsenio Hall Show Band. I co-produced the CD with Ron Grant, an Academy Award winning film composer, who arranged and conducted some of the material, but I also relied heavily upon the improvisational skills of these great players, and they surpassed my expectations.


From 2006 through 2019, I performed twelve concert tours in Japan, and produced/recorded/toured five more albums, bringing the total to eight (as of 2023).   Two of the albums, Beyond Living and Alicia Bay Laurel – Live in Japan, included tracks recorded in Japan with Japanese musicians and recording engineers.  Joe and I began living part time in Spain, and the 7th album, More Songs From Living on the Earth, included tracks recorded in Spain, with Spanish and British musicians.   Like my first album, Music from Living on the Earth, the songs were composed around the time I made the book Living on the Earth, but this recording is richly collaborative instead of solo, and the songs, more romantic and passionate. 

I also recorded by 5th album, Living Through Young Eyes, a solo instrumental guitar CD of songs I loved and learned during my first 25 years, as a memoir of my youth.  It includes four medleys of folk songs I sang during my childhood, one medley of early ’60s rhythm and blues tunes, one medley of hippie anthems, one medley of protest songs, and one medley of historic Hawaiian melodies. 

In 2021, I collaborated with Spanish filmmaker Luis Olano on the movie version of Living on the Earth: The Musical, which he filmed in November 2016 while gathering material for Sender Barayón: Viaje Hacia la Luz his documentary about the life and work of Ramón Sender Barayón, who makes a guest appearance in my show, singing with me for the first time in 43 years. 

In addition to the two songs Luis Olano licensed for his movie Sender Barayón (1966 and Surviving in Style), some others that I wrote have been licensed for movie soundtracks, including New Years’ Eve Party (aka Goodbye 1974) for S.J. Chiro’s dramatic film Lane 1974, and Sometimes it Takes a Long Time for Shinji Tsuji’s 2014 documentary Embracing the Seed of Life, about the life and work of environmental activist Vandana Shiva.


Land of the Free

Here’s a free download of my matriotic anthem, “America the Blues,” the second cut from my most recent CD, What Living’s All About, featuring avant-garde guitar legend Nels Cline as the roar of the industrial-military complex (and Ron Grant, Jody Ashworth, and me as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra).

Happy Interdependence Day, to all people, animals, plants, planets, stars, universes and microbes.

Reviews of Living in Hawaii Style

LIHS cover at 96 dpi

buy Living in Hawaii Syle

Review by Gerald Van Waes
Former radio producer and webmaster for radio show, Psyche Van Het Folk
Radio Centraal, Antwerp, Belgium
November 2005

Alicia started to live and breathe the essences of the island of Hawaii with its own special ‘heart’ energy. Like she expressed the hippie life book and album, this album expresses original and historic Hawaiian songs, accompanied by a slack key guitar with the help of Lei’ohu Ryder, singer and spiritualist with roots in Hawaiian culture, Sam Ahia, vocalist and jazz guitarist and Rick Asher Keefer, with some ukulele and percussion and vocals. Different from the previous album that seemed to have been an expression of immediate life energy, here a few song experiences have a kind of nostalgic souljazz in them even as if something is lost but still remembered. Elsewhere I feel sadness as if being an ode to the original Hawaiian joyful soul, while the historical songs are the immediate reference, while guitar instrumentals like “Sassy / Manuela Boy / Livin’ On Easy” are performed with a blues feeling. Other tracks, like the titletrack have all the luck and sunshine of Hawaii most brightly in them.

Review by Chris Roth
Founding member of Lost Valley Ecovillage
Former Editor, Talking Leaves Magazine
Spring, 2002

Our friend Alicia Bay Laurel (author and illustrator of the 1971 bestselling book Living On The Earth) has put together an album of original and historic Hawai’ian songs, sung with slack key guitar. After more than twenty-five years living in Hawai’i, Alicia has obviously absorbed much of the spirit of her adopted home—a spirit she conveys with great respect and also an effervescent joy. Most of this is lovely music about what’s good in life on an island where native culture and nature are still respected and honored by such “adopted natives” as Alicia.

Just as important, several songs point to the threats and damage to Hawai’i’s people and land done by less respectful outsiders, and a call, gently and beautifully, for a return to balance and sovereignty.

Review by Stanton Swihart
September 23, 2001

It took Alicia Bay Laurel nearly half of a lifetime and years of concerted study in a variety of styles before completing her debut album, but, oh, was it worth the wait. A gorgeous amalgam of John Fahey-style fingerpicking, modal passages, and lovingly sacred sentiments, Music from Living on the Earth was a sparkling stream of music pure from the heart. It took but mere months for Laurel to back up those sentiments with a second album that is every bit as compelling and beautifully realized, although it is considerably different in both tone and purpose.

Living in Hawai’i Style is, instead, a collection of Hawaiian songs – some traditional, some native and, indeed, some from the pen of Laurel herself, a longtime resident of the 50th state. Although a few have (most notably jazz guitarist George Benson), ha’oles (or “gringos”) have not traditionally been accepted with ease into the wider Hawaiian musical community. But Laurel proves herself acutely in-tuned to the nuances, subtleties, and details of traditional island styles, and the gorgeous open-key melodies or her original tunes are tailor-made to Hawaii’s deep legacy of slack-key guitar. Without debating the notion of authenticity, it can be said, at the very least, that Living is a supremely humble and giving album, both towards the listener and towards the Hawaiian musical history that it upholds and extends. That it goes well beyond is the album’s most endearing grace. Far from playing shallow and dilettantish, Living is, in fact, a paradisiacal love letter to Hawaii’s musical lore and to the place the artist calls home, and it could not honor the tradition any more than it does.

Laurel studied Hawaiian musical culture for more than two decades before even attempting to put her learning on tape (although some of the original songs date to the mid 1970s), and the album benefits greatly from that level of sensitivity and deference, as it incorporates nearly every style endemic to the islands, from ancient chant and drinking songs to a birthday tune, wedding songs, wonderfully breezy hulas, environmental anthems and songs of welcome. With ample help from the widely respected Hawaiian jazz-guitar great Sam Ahia and ravishing vocal support from spiritualist, composer, and educator Lei’ohu Ryder, Living in Hawai’i Style is every bit the blissful oasis that Hawaii often seems itself.

Review on by Pam Hanna
November 21, 2001

O Hawai’i!

In her first CD, Alicia Bay Laurel wrote and performed all of the songs, and it was a wonderful musical tour de force. On “Living in Hawaii Style,” other performers, writers and musicians make an appearance to excellent advantage. Alicia’s liner notes are a virtual musical primer on Hawaii – its musical history, genres, culture, geography, flora and fauna, as well as some magical personal history on how she came to know these people and places and enter into their music and their lives.

Traditional Hawaiian songs are included here (Nanakuli, from the 1890’s) as well as steel and nylon string guitars in standard and open tunings (known as Ki ho’alu or slack key) and “hapa ha’ole” (meaning half-foreign, one of a genre of swing tunes with tropical lyrics) as in “Moonlight and Shadows” with the smooth-voiced Sam Ahia.

Koa ukeleles, an ipu (gourd drum), pu’ili (bamboo rattles), pu (large conch shell used as a wind instrument), ti leaf rattles, slack key, steel and nylon string guitars, and ki ho’alu (open-tuned guitar, Hawai’ian style) are heard. Several songs, such as “Kawailehua’a’alakahonua” and “Holua, Kapalaoa and Paliku,” are sung in Hawaiian. The second of these is introduced with an original chant in the ancient style created and sung by Lei’ohu Ryder. The liner notes define Hawaiian words such as “Waikaloa” – “fresh water that is endless,” “A’a” a sharp, jagged lava and “Laupaho’eho’e” a smooth, ropy lava.”

One of my favorites is written and performed by Alicia alone (harmonizing with herself), “Ukulele Hula” – a lilting sing-along kind of song that embodies the feeling and spirit of Hawai’i. Has the feel of a years-old traditional song. “In Paradise, everybody is a lover.” Balmy, swaying breezy, rolling, it’s a “breezy afternoon and a sunset on the ocean.”

But the song that tugs most at the heart, for me, is “Kanikau, O Hawaii!”, written by Ginni Clemmons and sung by Lei’ohu Ryder and Alicia. “Kanikau” means “a mournful cry.”

“Oh Hawai’i, you’ve lost your innocence/ How can we get it back?/ Have we claimed you? Have we shamed you?/Have we spoiled the prize we’ve won?/ By taking you against your will,/Like all greedy lovers do./ Oh Hawai’i… we’re sorry/ Those who care are crying tears of shame./ ….Teach us the ways of nature,/ So that peace can end this war. Oh Hawai’i.”/
Lilting, haunting and lovely, the melody opens the heart to Hawai’i as she is, as she was.

This CD is pure pleasure. Just listen!

Review on Aloha Plenty Hawaii
by Doug and Sandy McMaster
September 28, 2001

“Any woman who has a great deal to offer the world is in trouble.” ~ Hazel Scott

In 1970, she wrote Living on the Earth which hit the bestseller list in 1971. She published 8 more books during the 70’s, and moved to Maui. Last year she released a CD entitled “Music From Living On the Earth” including 16 songs she had written at the time of the first publication.

Living on Maui and visiting the other islands, Alicia was
influenced by the musical stylings of Hawaii. She learned
traditional and contemporary songs as well as writing her
own. Spring of 2001 took her to the Big Island and into
the recording studio once again to create “Living in Hawaii
Style”. On this recording she’s joined by the Hawaiian
jazz guitarist Sam Ahia, spiritualist Lei’ohu Ryder, Rick
Asher Keefer. The recording includes several of her
originals as well as contemporary and jazz favorites.
It includes slack and standard guitar, ukulele, chants, ipu
(gourd), ukulele, and more.

It’s good to hear more women playing slack key… hence the quote I included in this issue. Having spent time in Hana on Maui we understand Alicia’s sentiments. A magical place with very special people. Her folk/pop renditions are nice and catchy. Alicia will be touring in support of her CD so watch for her coming your way… she has some great stories from her time on Maui. We met Alicia and her friend Joe atsunset by the bay.* Hope to see you there again soon Alicia!

And hope life is good for you on Big Island.

*Doug and Sandy are often found performing slack key guitar and ukulele duets at sunset at one of the beachparks in Hanalei, Kaua’i. Their music is beautiful! Their CDs are available at their web site (link above), which is a wonderful resource on ki hoalu (slack key guitar). ~ABL

Review in Newsgroups:
A new CD by Alicia Bay Laurel… some slack key, some jazz, some vintage Hawaiian… beautiful songs honoring her teacher and places on Maui that touched her heart. And a happy birthday, Hawaiian style, song too!


From Judy Barrett, former music industry professional in Honolulu, August 1, 2002:

I asked Led [slack key legend Ledward Ka’apana] to keep an eye out for you at the Hilo festival [the Big Island Slack Key Guitar Festival]. “She one haole girl? Kinda hippie?” Yeah, that sounds about right, I said. Turned out he’d already met you at one of his workshops in Hilo a few months ago. Said you played some of your compositions for him. I asked, “So?” He said you were pretty good. Now, I know that sounds pretty dang low key, but, from him, it truly is high praise. Enjoy it!

Sounds like you had a great time. I love that little festival!

Judy Barrett


September 4, 2001

Mahalo Alicia,

We just reviewed your charming release “Living In Hawai’i Style”. It is refreshing to know there are still some artists performing and recording in the islands who appreciate our magnificent musical roots.

You original compositions offer a compelling story of what is happening to beloved Hawai’i. Usually, most artists only record their complaints, not solutions. You are the difference. Even though you are not native to the islands, you have the feel of the land and people.

When I was involved with the original “Hawai’i Calls” radio program, and the newer version, I always looked forward the most to the more traditional and hapa-haole numbers.

This is a most enjoyable musical experience.

Aloha nui loa,
J Hal Hodgson
Executive Producer
Ports of Paradise


September 12, 2001

Aloha Alicia~

I am delighted to have shared in your CD project. The songs are clearly from your heart. You are a gift to our islands. The makana who has been called to service the vision of aloha and maluhia for the world.

Congratulations on such a fine job. May you continue to heal the people in your work.

Malama pono~

Lei’ohu Ryder


“What a nice recording. You did a very good job.”

January 21, 2002

Auntie Nona Beamer
Mother of Keola and Kapono Beamer
And Hawaiian Music Legend in Her Own Right


“I’ve been listening to your Hawaiian album.  I love it.  Every single song!  I hardly ever listen to other people’s music because my brain is just so full of my own.  Right now I’m listening to Track 3.  I love your voice; it’s so perfect, so lovely and sensual!”

June 28, 2011

Gabrielle Silva
Jazz vocalist and visual artist
Creator of the Ragananda doll, books and videos


I Absolutely LOVED YOUR Hawaiian CD! I especially loved your stories, like that of Auntie Alice. For those of us who had lived there and loved Paradise yet saw firsthand the impact on the old Hawaiian culture, those stories mean a lot.

I think we both saw Hawaii thru the same set of eyes while we were living there – I like the way you succinctly articulated it both here and thru the songs and stories on the CD – It will always hold a very special place in my heart, but what happened to the lovely gentle native people there was very similar to other Native Americans — yet you captured their Joy and Aloha spirit with your sweet Music, Alicia!!!!

Aloha Nui Nui,

Linda Joy Lewis
Author of vegan cookbook classic Earth Angel Kitchen