Take a Trip Through the States with Songs for Hawaii—America’s Songbook

Every state across the country has its own type of music that makes it what it is. In a multi-part series, American Songwriter will take a look at each of the 50 states and the music that emanates from each of the various and unique landscapes.

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Next stop: Hawaii

Known for its expansive paradise and laid-back lifestyle, Hawaii not only feels good, the state sounds good. Music echoes from island to island where folk, pop, rock, and hip-hop are mainstay sounds, but where traditional Hawaiian music, steeped in rich culture and history, is king.

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Making up America’s Songbook, here is a playlist of songs for Hawaii about the state and by the statesmen.

1. “Aloha ‘Oe” – Queen Liliuokalani

“Aloha ʻOe,” or “Farewell to Thee,” is a traditional Hawaiian song written by the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen Liliʻuokalani.

Meant to be less of a message of “so long” and more of a “see you later,” the song is a tender one, like a warm embrace. Lines of the chorus play, ʻO ka haliʻa aloha i hiki mai / Ke hone aʻe nei i / Kuʻu manawa / ʻO ʻoe nō kuʻu ipo aloha / A loko e hana nei, translating to Sweet memories come back to me / Bringing fresh remembrances / Of the past / Dearest one, yes, you are mine own / From you, true love shall never depart

2. “Talking to the Moon” – Bruno Mars

Born in Honolulu to a musical family, Bruno Mars was exposed to a diverse mix of music very early on. At the age of four, Mars became known around the state for his impersonation of Elvis Presley while performing almost full-time with his family’s band, The Love Notes, a rollercoaster of a career that would inform his celebrity today.

3. “Rolling Down To Old Maui” – Stan Rogers

The rich baritone Canadian troubadour Stan Rogers sings It’s a damn tough life, full of toil and strife / We whalermen undergo / And we don’t give a damn when the gale is done / How hard the winds did blow, illustrating a hard seafaring life in “Rolling Down To Old Maui.”

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However, the sailors will forget all about the troubles they’ve had once they are finally in their beloved home of The Aloha State, singing, ‘Cause we’re homeward bound from the Arctic ground / With a good ship, taut and free / And we won’t give a damn when we drink our rum / With the girls of Old Maui.

Playlist for Hawaii

“White Sandy Beach” – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

“Blue Hawaii” – Elvis Presley

“Upside Down” – Jack Johnson

“The Rose” – Bette Midler

“Hawaii Aloha” – Reverend Lorenzo Lyons

“Talking to the Moon” – Bruno Mars

“Aloha ‘Oe” – Queen Liliuokalani

“A Part of Me, A Part of You” – Moe Keale

“To You Sweetheart, Aloha” – Bing Crosby, Dick McIntire and his Harmony Hawaiians

“Pearly Shells (Pupu o Ewa)” – Don Ho

“Island Style” – John Cruz

“Kawika” – Jake Shimabukuro

“New Slang” – The Shins

“Pua `Ahihi” – The Kahauanu Trio

“Man in the Box” – Alice in Chains

“Hawaiian Wedding Song” – Alfred Apaka

“Rolling Down To Old Maui” – Stan Rogers

“If I Can’t Have You” – Yvonne Elliman

“Highway in the Sun” – Cecilio & Kapono

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