Alicia Bay Laurel

The spirituality of living on the earth, expressed in song.
Please email Alicia to place your order
($15 plus postage/handling: $2 in the USA, email Alicia
for postage rates to other countries.)

To check out Living In Hawai'i Style, click here.

Rated 4.5 stars out of a possible 5 and chosen as an
All Media Guide album pick on!

Music from Living on the Earth

In 1971, Alicia Bay Laurel's NYT bestselling book, Living on the Earth, inspired a generation to move to the woods and dance around in the nude. Here are the songs she wrote at the time she created her legendary book, at age 19, recorded solo in a professional studio 30 years later with the engineer who made Heart's Dog and Butterfly album. Influenced by John Fahey, a family member, Alicia fingerpicks in a variety of guitar tunings, in styles somewhat like Celtic, country waltz, raga, delta blues, jazz waltz, bluegrass and old hymnal tunes, but not quite, because of the philosophical content of the lyrics, which reflect the revolutionary natural living guide for which the CD is named.

The CD is packaged in jewelcase with inserts printed in soy inks on 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper. Alicia designed and lettered the folder graphics; the cover art is from the book Living On The Earth. For more information, see the press release below.

Review on
by Stanton Swihart
February, 2001

Rating: 4.5 stars out of a possible 5

The debut recording from Alicia Bay Laurel comes after a 30-year apprenticeship in everything from folk to jazz, Brazilian, and Hawaiian music (in addition to a career as an acclaimed author and illustrator), and it is a beautiful and rejuvenating catharsis of a record. It is a thankful piece of work, refreshing and pure, full of sweet naiveté but also a kind of undiluted wisdom and a strong sense of self-awareness, best exemplified by one song, "Oh Sweet Self." The songs were written in Laurel's commune days, during which she was writing the original version of her bestseller Living on the Earth, chiefly between 1968 and 1975. All but one of the songs, though, were recorded over a two-month period at the beginning of 2000 by Laurel with just her guitar playing as accompaniment. As simple as the pleasures of the music are, however, this is not simple music. This is a quintessentially folk album, but not a standard one. It betrays strong elements of jazz and even hints of gospel, and Laurel displays some fabulously fingerpicked acoustic blues passages throughout, especially on songs like "Chard & Chives," the jazzy autobiography-in-song "Nineteen Sixty-Six," and the instrumental "Sky Blues." In addition, the influence of Indian culture shows up not only in the classical "Vai Raga" but also in the folk-raga hybrid instrumental of "Waterwheel" and some of the leitmotifs of "Mandala." Many of the songs utilize tricky and unconventional open and modal tunings, all expertly managed by Laurel. The songs stand well on their own, but work even better as complements to and invocations of Living on the Earth. Lyrically, there is a concerted slant towards the communal/hippie themes that were so endemic to the period during which all the songs were written: love, nature, freedom, understanding, spirituality, compassion, voluntary simplicity. "Chard & Chives," for instance, is an innocent ode to gardening that soon extends to the larger ideals of living in and with nature, and then to the importance of growing into one's life. The wonderful "Hang Out & Breathe" offers gentle rural charms and serves as a sort of folk meditation on Ram Dass' tenet, "Be here now." And the a cappella "Rain" is a straightforward celebration of the cleansing properties of the title subject. But these ideals also happen to be universal themes, many of them still, unfortunately, lacking in the world, rendering the songs just as relevant as the day on which they were composed. The album appropriately closes with the 40-voice choir version of "In the Morning" recorded live in the 1970s by the Occidental Community Choir from choral arrangements made by friend, mentor, and avant-garde composer Ramon Sender. The solo folk version that opens the album is a gorgeous awakening to our common humanity, and a lovely way to bring the music to commencement. But when the 40 voices join in the end, the song turns into a transcendent prayer. It seems to break from its strictures, wander out into the early light of day, and mingle with the living earth where it can breath, before rising up toward the heavens, a gift. Many of the songs on Music From Living On The Earth, in fact, seem like small, tranquil gifts. [The album is available from the artist's website,] — Stanton Swihart

Review by "Psyche Van Het Folk" radio host and webmaster Gerald Van Waes in Antwerp, Belgium
November, 2005

In 1971, Alicia was in her twenties when she started to live in a hippie commune, and had published a kind of handbook for hippies wanting to live in nature and enjoy a child-like innocence and joy. The book, now in reprint- contains charming drawings and became a successful bestseller. Between 1968 and 1975 she wrote additional songs for it, which were all but one, recorded in 2000.
The music has an underlying similar kind of deliberate naivety to enjoy life with a certain practical minimalism, which is feminine, charming and lovely. The songs are short. The stylistic folk simplicities just here and there (like on "In the Morning") are completely forgivable or still suitable because of its strong inner sweetness, which works like a winking eye to inner wish for love, and which still works as a ode to life. There has been attention to some variety in guitar playing. There are also stylistic surprises, like original bluesy interpretations, or an open tuning track called "Vai raga" with Indian flavour, or a 40 voice choir interpretation of the opening track as a perfect closer.

This is a very nice and lovely album which is suitable for repeated listening experiences and which grows with each listen. (I discovered this album through a Japanese collector’s list of psychedelic folk). The album itself is like a resume of one life's experience in a certain world of existence.

Review on
by Pam Hanna
November 19, 2001

A Kaleidoscope of Musical Colors

Many-colored songs from Alicia Bay Laurel's popular book (now in its second edition) "Living on the Earth" is a one-woman show.  Just as she writes and illustrates her book, she accompanies herself on guitar and even harmonizes with herself in such pieces as "Vai Raga" with the lovely musical effects of D-modal tuning (illustrated in the line-notes). The combination of a voice as pure and clear as a waterfall and deliciously resonant guitar chords twang the consciousness nicely.  Instrumentals are mellow and soothing ("Waterfall").

There is a fair amount of philosophy and social observation here.  "I'm gonna blossom in my own care./  Gonna give myself the time that I need./  Gonna pick a blossom, put it in my waving hair/ And let the blooming flowers go to seed."  And,  "The city trip of being hip/ And paying lip service to law/.  First was fun, but then the sun/ Went away and I had to give/. You must pay/ for the way/ you live."  And "Experiences endlessly follow each other/ Let them go by, you'll see as the world turns/ Each one teaches you that God is your lover./

…As well as one autobiographical tune "1966" - with cool West-Coast modern chords.

But the most striking and memorable song on the album, in my opinion, is "In the Morning."  Reminiscent of simple Shaker words and tune, a quilt spreads out before your eyes.  First sung by Alicia with her guitar and then at the end by the Occidental Community Choir (Ramon Sender did the arrangement and directed the choir).  "Rise ye early by morning's dew/, And wash out your mouth and the rest of ye, too/.  Don't take ye no worry if the water's too cold/ It's years of cold washing that prevents growing old."

"In the morning, in the morning/ With the first light ye rise/ And keep your mouth closed/ And open your eyes./ In the morning, in the morning/ When the first light is new/ Come rise ye and roll ye/ In the sweet morning dew./

A rainbow of an album.  Well worth it.


Review on
By Tracy Dove-Coppen
January 12, 2002

Magical and Beautiful and Pure!

When you hear the sweet, pure voice of Alicia Bay Laurel and her music, fragrant with innocence and simplicity, her songs will become a part of your own heart song. The entire cd is so delightful and wonderful. She plays the guitar beautifully and skillfully. The lyrics and music flow together creating a joyful awareness of the earth and our place in it. This CD is a magical celebration of living on the earth.

Review from Ladyslipper Catalogue:
September, 2000

In 1971, at the age of 21, Alicia Bay Laurel saw her first book, Living On the Earth, become a NY Times bestseller as well as a counterculture classic that inspired thousands to live more simply and self-sufficiently. Lauded as possibly "the best book in this catalog" by the Whole Earth Catalog, it served as the inspiration for the new large-format, hand-illustrated style employed by editions such as Anne Kent Rush's Massage Book and Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook. If you have fond memories of this wonderful book (still in print in its 30th Anniversary Revised Edition), you'll thoroughly enjoy this collection of 17 original free-spirited songs written when the book was first published. Using various guitar tunings reminiscent of John Fahey's work (which Alicia learned from John himself, a family member), she accompanies songs like Invocation, Chard & Chives, Mandala, Lullaby, Rinpoche, Hang Out & Breathe and many more. A great gift for a friend or loved one with whom you may have shared this optimistic and revolutionary book and era.

Press Release:
Music From Living On The Earth

Sixteen original folk songs, performed by the songwriter, sung with finger-picked guitar accompaniment, often in open tunings reminiscent of the work of John Fahey. Fahey was married to Alicia’s cousin, Janet Lebow, when Alicia was a teen, and he taught her tunings and fingerpicking. The songs are about nature, gardening, non-religious spirituality, the life Alicia led while writing her best-selling manual for bohemian style country living, Living On The Earth. While the book became a bible for an entire social movement of the early ‘seventies, the songs Alicia wrote became part of the folk culture of the commune, Wheeler Ranch in Sonoma County, California, where she lived. It wasn’t until much later, when the book was published in a thirtieth anniversary revised edition, that Alicia recorded her songs from that time. During eight months on the road promoting the book, she performed 75 shows of her one-woman play, Living On The Earth: The Musical, which was based on her life’s adventures, and included seven of the songs from the CD.

The CD booklet is completely handlettered and illustrated with Alicia’s drawings, in the style of the book for which it is named, and is, of course, printed with soy inks on 100% post-consumer-waste recycled paper. The song list includes the tunings for each song. The seventeenth and final song is a reprise of the first, performed by a forty-voice a cappella choir recorded in 1991.

Alicia studied piano for five years before taking up the guitar at age 12, giving her the advantage of having some music theory and fingers that moved independently. She began writing songs early in her ‘teens, and continues to this day. She has studied guitar and vocal technique intermittently throughout her life, and, after learning the host of popular tunes that comprise the bread and butter of a working vocal/guitar soloists’ repertoire, began working professionally as a musician at age 35. She was 50 when she made this, her first recording. To return to her original music, with its strong spiritual base, has been a rebirth for Alicia.

Alicia's Musical Bio on

Known by the public at-large primarily for her 1970 best-selling book, Living on the Earth, and her other writing and illustrating projects, Alicia Bay Laurel also established a fascinating musical history long before she finally made it onto a recording. Laurel studied piano and clarinet as a child, gravitating toward pop and boogie woogie pieces, but it wasn't until seeing Bob Dylan in concert in 1961 that she became enthralled by music and performing. A brother taught her basic folk guitar not long after, and by 1964 she was learning open-tuned guitar from John Fahey, who was at the time married to her cousin Jan Lebow. Laurel listened and studied Fahey's recordings, as well as folk, world, ethnic, and jazz records, and particularly the work of Mose Allison, the Swingle Singers, Barney Kessel, Kimio Eto, early Dylan, Donovan, and Judy Collins. She also heard much of the great West Coast jazz on the radio. When she gravitated to San Francisco in 1966 as a 17-year-old, Laurel made the rounds of coffeehouses and small clubs and played wherever and for whomever would have her, everywhere from in the park to playing privately for friends, writing her own original material all the while. In the late '60s, she joined the Wheeler Ranch commune and played in a group that became the Star Mountain Band and eventually had its own commune next door. It was in 1970 that her book, Living on the Earth, was published to widespread acclaim and found its way onto the bestseller list, but the book was always a part of grander project that included Laurel's original songs as a soundtrack. During the television and radio rounds to promote the book, she would frequently perform some of the tunes, including in a KQED-TV special made about the book.

After leaving Wheeler Ranch, Laurel spent two years traveling with avant-garde composer Ramon Sender, one of the founders of the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the early 1960s along with Mort Subotnick, Pauline Oliveros, and Terry Riley. Laurel learned a lot about scales, modes, and tunings from Sender and created a book with him in 1973 published by Harper & Row, Being of the Sun, which included a lot of that musical information. Sender was also one of the inventors, along with Subotnick and audio engineer Don Buchla, of the first synthesizer on the West Coast, the Buchla Box.

In 1974 Laurel moved to Hawaii, where open-tuned guitar was a traditional part of the national ethnic music tapestry. She learned to play and sing Hawaiian music from numerous teachers, including Auntie Clara Tolentino, slack key guitarist Uncle Sol Kawaihoa, twelve string player Wesley Furumoto (with whom she played in a duo for two years), and jazz guitarist Sam Ahia, and learned nearly as much by seeing the live performances of Auntie Alice Namakelua, who was the court musician to Queen Liliukalani as a teenager, and listening to the early recordings of Keola and Kapono Beamer. During the 1980s Laurel spent three years in California studying jazz guitar and, with Pamela Polland, vocal technique, while teaching at the Los Angeles alternative school Hearlight. She fell in love with the early music of Michael Franks and Brazilian pop, and built up a repertoire of jazz standards and Brazilian tunes in addition to her Hawaiian songs. Upon returning to Maui, Laurel continued to study vocal technique and taught at Haleakala School. She returned to California for year in 1984 and began gigging in restaurants all around Sonoma County before returning again to Hawaii and continuing to perform constantly as well as opening and running a full service wedding business for eleven years.

In 1996 she teamed with avant-garde drummer/composer/synthesizer player Joe Gallivan, the test driver of the first Moog drum, and they developed a long-term working relationship. Laurel aided Gallivan with his company and label,, and thereby learned how to put together and release her own CD. In 2000 she recorded some of the original folk songs that she had written during her commune days in the late-1960s and early-1970s and released it independently as Music from Living On The Earth, supporting the album by playing more than 70 shows over the course of the year in 25 states across the country. She also developed a one-woman, one-act play called Living on the Earth-The Musical based on stories from her best-selling book and those songs, and began discussions to turn it into a screenplay as well. The following year, Laurel set to work recording Living In Hawai'i Style consisting primarily of her original Hawaiian slack-key pieces, and made plans to work on a jazz and blues album, What Living's All About, produced by Gallivan. — Stanton Swihart

There are also numerous comments on this CD in the Reflections section of this site.

Lyrics to the songs on Music from Living On The Earth
All songs (c) 2001 Alicia Bay Laurel, Bay Tree Music (ASCAP)

In the Morning  

In the morning, in the morning
With the first light ye rise

And keep your mouth closed
And open your eyes.
In the morning, in the morning

When the first light is new
Come rise ye and roll ye
In the sweet morning dew

Verse 1:
Rise ye early by morning's dew

And wash out your mouth and the rest of ye, too.
Don't take ye no worry if the water's too cold
It's years of cold washing that prevents growing old.

Verse 2:
Clean out the house, now, and scrub out the pots

And water the garden afore it's too hot
And stretch out the kinks that you tied in your sleep

For the day's a ballet, gotta stay on your feet.  

Verse 3:
Musicians play songs and the writer must write

The lover must practice his art in the night

Some paint and some garden, but whatever you do

You'll do it much better by morning's dew.

Chard and Chives  

I'm going out to do a dance in the garden
I've got a space cleared out to plant a gift of love to everyone

The garden--I hope it feeds everyone
But, in the meantime, it gets me out in the sun.  

Each little seed I planted with a sweet love song
Each little weed I killed I hoped it came back as a fruiting tree

Oh garden--please pardon my ignorance

I'm a city girl just learning to listen to plants.  

All of the pits and peels that went into the compost
Come back as comfrey, kale and carrots, a row of beans and mustard greens

And lettuce--be thankful for garlic, chard and chives
May our salad days last the rest of our lives

Whenever I'm down and blue I go to my garden
And soon I'll be singing and acting goofy as a girl in love for the very first time

Oh garden--I love the way you set me free

Hope I grow for you the way you grow for me.  


Rain's falling down, how the drops fill the air
Trees are green all around, grass is thick everywhere

And a sigh fills the space 'tween the clouds and the ground

Between heavier drops it's a faraway sound

Falling down, all around
Passing by, through the sky.  

Oceans are crashing, the mountain is still
And the rain covers all, like the wind has no will
But the clouds blow inland and the earth turns around
And above all the clouds, sun and moon shining down

Shining down, all around

Passing by, through the sky.  

Hang Out and Breathe  

Verse 1:

What I wanna 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've 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

Verse 2:
When I can remember to hang out and breathe

And let all my worrying cease

Things may go crazy and things may go fine
I'll be a love fountain in a garden of peace  

Verse 3:
Nothing is more simple than to hang out and breate
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 while your wishes come true  

Thanksgiving Hymn  

Early springtime flowers abound, everything sings
Baby birds are flying around, trying their wings

So we go to planting our seeds in the ground

Soft the April rains come falling, falling down
So we go to planting our seeds in the ground.

Summer river waterfalls gleam, ocean bound
Time to take a swim in the stream, bodies turn brown
So we go to tending our garden so green

Strong the summer sun is shining, shining serene

So we go to tending our garden so green.

Autumn's bounty covers the earth, fragrant with food
Mother Nature's bosomy girth, brilliantly hued

So we go to harvest the fruits of the earth
Warm September winds come laughing, caroling mirth

So we go to harvest the fruits of the earth  

Oh, the year's sweet gifts unfolding, day and night
So we thank our Maker for giving us light.  


Verse 1:
Scattering seeds of enlightenment, the rinpoches came to tea
Kalu tapped his foot to my songs as he watched for souls to set free
"For the sake of the ones that hear you," he said
"Will you sing this song for me?"  

Aum mani pedme hung, aum mani pedme hung
The whole golden afternoon kept singing to me  

Verse 2:
All you four-legged and two legged ones, all you winged and rooted that breathe
May you have the causes of happiness, may your sorrow and pain become peace
May you come to a state of enlightenment
For the sake of all sentient beings.  

Verse 3:
And when the rinpoches walked away, leaving their stardust and smiles
Everyone gathered where they had sat, and we talked and made music a while

When my friends had all gone their ways,
I strummed a new song in my style.

Oh Sweet Self  

Verse 1:
No matter how hard they try
Your lovers can't love you any better than you love yourself
You wouldn't let them if they tried.

Oh sweet self, I'm gonna love you more
A little more than I did yesterday, every day
I'm gonna blossom in my own care
Gonna give myself the time that I need
Gonna pick a blossom, put it in my waving hair
And let the blooming flowers go to seed.

Verse 2:
I took some time to be all alone
Found that I could make it all right, even at night
Even with nobody by my side.

Verse 3:
So I won't try to buy up your love
Don't see no need to compromise my self anymore
Gettin' high is all my love is for.  


All the plants in the garden can heal you
Get to know them, let their consciousness feel you
On the land, and the plants of the sea, too

If you grow them, you will know they can see you.
Energy high, from the sun and the star belt

Happy to be a part of a larger mandala
They reach for the sun, they suckle the earth's milk
Richly arrayed in their jeweled regalia.  

All the gods in the heavens can love you
When you're dancing feel them hover above you

On the earth all the people are learning
To the loving of the heavens we're turning.
Anyone's eyes can be channels of God's love
Tune right in with a carress and a kiss
Everyone needs a hit of the real thing

Since we're all here, it's not easy to miss.

All the ways to nirvana can free you
I'd say any way that will let you just be you
After all, it's the knowing we're all one
That will let you give up growsing and have fun.
Energy flows in myriad patterns
Experiences endlessly follow each other

Let them go by, you'll see as the world turns

Each one teaches you that God is your lover.

Nineteen Sixty-six  

From lollipop to teenybop
From bunny hop to drop out

From LA I ran away
To find out what life was about
Took the route
Along the sea

To find me  

Poetry and LSD
Beneath a tree in Big Sur
Opened me to serenity
But found my mind so very hard to find

But life was kind

On the way

To San Francisco Bay.

The city trip of being hip
And paying lip service to law
First was fun, but then the sun

Went away and I had to give
You must pay For the way You live.  

Time again, I met a friend
Who took me to a greener place

Stayed a while and found a style
Of living that was earthy, like me

I could be

Very free and easy

Oh, so free and easy, yeah.

Vai Raga  

Verse 1:
Street vendors are singing in rhyme
Pilgrims are visiting shrines
The children play the same games everywhere
The stars' places, the moon's phases,
The men's paces are the same.  

Verse 2:
Love shines from the eyes of holy men
They bless you and they disappear again
They remind you not to lose your dreams
The lambs bleating, the pigs eating,
The winds meeting could scatter them.  

Come, abandoning all plan.
Place yourself in the hands of the Creator.  

Verse 3:
Down to the source of the Force
Streaming like a wide river's course
We will merge into a silent sea
Without places, without spaces,
Without faces we are Eternity.  

Pain and Love     

Pain and love, pain and love
Take away the pain, and bring on the love
Pain and love, oh, pain and love
Take away the pain, and bring on the love.  

For each of us can be a voice of compassion
Each in our own way, each in our fashion
We may look different and stand different trials
But the magic of mercy is the source of our smiles.  

So let's share our lovin'
What else have we got in this world?
It's the only way the earth can survive
The way things have gone  


I won't leave you alone
I won't leave you alone
Until you're ready to start out on your own.
I won't leave you alone
I won't leave you alone.  

I won't leave you at night
I won't leave you at night
Until the morning fills your window with its light
I won't leave you at night
I won't leave you at night.

I won't stop you when you go
I won't stop you when you go
But I'll be ready to smile and say "hello"

I won't stop you when you go
I won't stop you when you go.  

I won't leave you alone
I won't leave you alone
Until you're ready to start out on your own.
I won't leave you alone
I won't leave you alone.  

Family to Me

Today we stand facing the world side by side
Dressed in our best as the groom and the bride
For you are my sweetheart and always will be
And now you are family to me.  

Verse 1:
All through our courtship I learned about you
You proved to be tender, loyal and true
I hope you have noticed the same about me
'Cause that's what it takes to become family  

Verse 2:
By trusting each other and seeking what's real
We truthfully share what we hope for and feel
Becoming invincible as we grow old
Is the love in our hearts and the peace in our souls.  

Verse 3:
The loving between us becomes like a sun
That shines both for us and for everyone
It shines in our eyes and shines from our home
And shines through the world wherever we roam.  


God bless you, my guitar
For showing me the music in my soul
We have travelled very far, you and I
And I've learned from you
That the whole world is very holy
And that silence is the source of sound.
Thank you for every note that came forth from your throat
God bless you, my guitar
God bless you, my guitar  

God bless you, vocal chords
For airing undulations of my heart
May you vibrate sympathetically
With the muses of the dark uncharted spaces
And the angels of the light!
Thank you for every note that came forth from my throat
God bless you, vocal chords
God bless you, my guitar.


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