Alicia Bay Laurel
The sweet sounds of the Pacific are here!
Please email Alicia directly to place your order
($17 plus $1.50 postage/handling within USA)

To check out Music From Living On The Earth, click here.

Living In Hawai'i Style

Alicia plays slack key guitar and sings sixteen Hawai'ian songs and medleys, eight of which are original. Two renowned Hawaiian musicians, chanter/percussionist Lei'ohu Ryder and jazz guitarist/vocalist Sam Ahia, join her. The CD opens with the first and only Hawai'ian birthday song (an original), followed by environmental anthems, turn-of-the-century instrumentals, Waikiki lounge tunes from the 1930's, hulas in three part harmony, homages to Hawai'ian grandmother musicians, tropical feel-good swing tunes, and odes to landscapes of overwhelming beauty. The ten-panel full-color booklet, written, illustrated and designed by Alicia, includes the complete lyrics, translations of all the Hawai'ian words, and little stories about each song that include notes on Hawai'ian history, biology, geology, and social customs.

Alicia Bay Laurel first arrived on Maui in 1969, already an accomplished open-tuned guitar player, having learned from pioneering guitar legend John Fahey, a family member, during her 'teens.  She immediately fell in love with Hawai'ian style open tuning--slack key. In 1974, she moved to Hana, Maui, where she learned to sing in Hawai'ian from Clara Kalalau Tolentino, the town kumu hula (and matriarch of a musical dynasty that includes recording artist G-girl Keli'iho'omalu), and slack key guitar from Clara's son-in-law, Jerome Smith. Later, she studied slack key with Uncle Sol Kawaihoa, and hapa-ha'ole guitar arrangements from jazz guitar great, Sam Ahia. In January, 2000, after 16 years of performing extensively on Maui, Alicia recorded her first, all-original, solo vocal and guitar CD, Music From Living On The Earth, in the Fahey-influenced tunings of her youth. The following year she recorded a CD of original and historic Hawai'ian songs on slack key guitar with vocals, Living In Hawai'i Style, with guest artists Sam Ahia and Lei'ohu Ryder.  

Lei'ohu Ryder: A spiritualist, composer, performer, and educator with roots in Hawai'ian culture, Lei'ohu raises her superb voice in song and Hawai'ian chants, which she can compose on the spot. (There's one on the CD.) Her psychic abilities yielded the discovery of the Kukuipuka heiau (temple ruins), which she and others are restoring. Her latest CD, Lady of the Mountain, was on the Top Ten on Hawai'ian radio stations. Her web site is at

Sam Ahia: Widely respected throughout the state of Hawai'i as a great jazz guitarist/vocalist, Sam has appeared on dozens of recordings, including his own, the all-original Ukumehame, and Hawai'ian Time, a collection of Hawai'ian favorites.


Listen to four of the songs at

We liked the cover art so much, we made...

Hawai'ian Birthday Cards
and Refrigerator Magnets!
$2.00 plus 50 cents shipping and handling (within USA,)
for a card with a matching bright turquoise envelope
OR for a 5"x5" laminated picture with magnets attached.

To order: email Alicia directly.

Payments accepted directly on major credit cards,
or at (account under,
or by mailing a postal money order to
Alicia Bay Laurel
P.O. Box 961
Pahoa HI 96778


Review by Gerald Van Waes, radio producer and webmaster for radio show "PVHF"(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
for 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. [The album, along with the artist's first, is
available from, or from the Twiggs Company at 800-898-0286 or 2842 Samco Rd., #V, Rapid City SD 57702 .]


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 Hawai'i!", written by Ginni Clemmons and sung by Lei'ahu 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
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 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 at
sunset 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 (address 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!


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


More comments on Living In Hawai'i Style
on the September '01 Reflections Page , the October '01 Reflections Page, and the November '01 Reflections Page.

Back cover:

Read Alicia's musical bio on


Song Lyrics from Living In Hawai'i Style

All songs, unless otherwise noted, are copyright 2001
by Alicia Bay Laurel, Bay Tree Music ASCAP.
The other songs are used with the permission of the
publisher or songwriter, or are in public domain.
For translations of all Hawai'ian words and stories
about each song, please see the liner notes of the CD.

1. Hau'oli La Hanau (Happy Birthday)

Hau'oli lahanau, aloha nui loa.
Hau'oli lahanau, Auntie Lilikoi!

Translation: Happy birthday, great love to you forever,
Happy birthday, (name of person whose birthday it is)

Lucky live Hawaii, Hawaii lucky, too.
Seashore to da mountain, plenny love for you!

2. Kanikau O Hawai'i (by Ginni Clemmons)

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 ooh…Oh Hawai'i, we're sorry
Those who care are crying tears of shame
But with your gentle kindness,
You wash our tears away
With your never-ending streams.
Come reach us, come teach us
Your gentle, simple ways
Teach us the ways of nature
So that peace can end this war
(repeat lines 7 through 15)
Oh Hawai'i we love you
Hawai'i aloha nou,

3. From Hawai'i To You (by Lani Sang)

I'll weave a lei, a beautiful lei, of stars,
To greet you the Hawai'ian way,
Straight from Hawai'i to you.

I'll take a kiss and blend it into a lei
Of fragrance so sweet and so rare,
Straight from Hawai'i to you.

Just vision, lazy days beside the sea
Underneath the coco tree;
This my love conveys to you.

So take a kiss and blend it into a lei
Of fragrance so sweet and so rare.
Aloha wau ia oe;
Straight from Hawaii to you.

4. Nanakuli Blues/Nanakuli/Vale of Feathers

Nanakuli Blues, by Liko Martin and Thor Wold
Nanakuli, traditional from 1890's
Vale of Feathers, lyrics by Alicia Bay Laurel,
music by Liko Martin and Thor Wold

Tired and worn, I woke up this morn',
Found that I was confused.
Spun right around and found I had lost
The things that I could not lose
The beaches they sell to build their hotels,
The old Hawai'ian families knew.
The birds all along the sunlight at dawn
Singing Nanakuli Blues.

O ka leo o ka manu
E ho'i mai e pili
Keiki o ka aina i ka pono a o Nanakuli e a
E ho'i mai e pili

In the vale of feathers, morning dawns
Like a lovely woman coming on.
Oh, pool of tears, wash over me;
Take my sorrows down to the sea.
'Cause when I look back at what I lacked,
I miss the high times when they come by.
Treat the people and the islands kind;
You know it's not about the bottom line.

In the gardens of the bountiful,
I will wander through a meadow to a pool.
Oh, mother island, plenteous,
You feed me from your flowing breast.
'Cause when we look back at all we lacked,
We miss the high times when they come by.
Treat the people and the islands kind;
You know it's not about the bottom line.

In the vale of feathers, land of song.
The cardinal, the mynah, and the dove.
Oh kona wind, please carry this song
To the ears of the ones that I love.
When you look back at what you lacked,
You'll miss the high times when they come by.
Treat the people and the islands kind;
You know it's not about the bottom line.

5. Waikaloa

Waikaloa, beautiful newborn land,
From the mountains you came,
From the smoke and the flame,
From a wave of Pele's hand.

Waikaloa, rainforest by the sea,
With your lava rock walls,
And your trees green and tall,
Here the ancient ones live on in dreams.

I'm walking slow in Waikaloa
To play some music with my friends,
Over a'a and laupaho'eho'e,
An old steel string guitar held in my hands.

Waikaloa, north shore of Hana Bay,
Where the heiau once stood,
Where the fishing's still good,
Where the old ki ho'alu still plays.

We sang all night in Waikaloa;
The sun rose from the sea when we were through.
Our sounds of bamboo and of koa,
The pahu, the ipu and the pu.

Waikaloa, mystery is your song.
You're the wrinkle in time
Where the past and present rhyme;
You're the waters that flow ever long.

6. Ukulele Hula

I'm dreaming to the sound of ukuleles
Playing all night long for a wedding of our family.
In paradise, everybody is lover,
And the more you let go the more that comes back to you.

So, surrender to the beautiful island,
And she'll give you everything that you need.

Feasting on a sun-ripened papaya,
Playing all day in the waves along the sand,
Breezy afternoon and a sunset on the ocean,
Sailing away on a song of Bali Hai.

Let me make you feel good; that's what we're here for:
For ecstasy, delight and bliss.

It's so balmy, such a balmy evening,
To melt in love in a tropical paradise.
Let's swing and sway to the sound of ukuleles
Like the gentle green fronds of the lovely coconut tree.

Surrender to the beautiful island
And she'll give you everything that you need.

I'm dreaming to the sound of ukuleles
Playing all night long for a wedding of our family.
In paradise everybody is a lover,
And the more you let go the more that comes back to you.

7. Holua, Kapalaoa and Paliku
Words and music by Matthew Kalalau

(Opening chant by Lei'ohu Ryder:
Eia la wahipana la
E ola e ola e ola la
Eia papa hele mu
E ala e ola e ola Haleakala)

I ke ia makou ka nani a o Holua
Amena pali ki'e ki'e a o Hale Mau'u

I ke ia makou a o Kapalaoa
Amena pu'u kaulana a o Pu'u Maile

I ke ia makou ka nani a o Paliku
Amena pali ha uli uli he nani po ina 'ole

E o ne'i makou mele ka nani a o Holua
Kapalaoa amena Paliku

8. Sassy Hula/Manuela Boy/Livin' On Easy
(instrumental, all songs traditional, from the 1890's)

9. Moonlight and Shadows (by Leo Robin and Friedrick Hollaender)
Blue Lei (by R. Alex Anderson and Milton Beamer)

Moonlight and shadows and you in my arms,
And a melody and a bamboo tree, my sweet.
Even in shadows I feel no alarm,
As you held me tight in the pale moonlight, my sweet.

Close to my heart you always will be,
Never, never to part.

Moonlight and shadows and you in my arms,
I belong to you; you belong to me, my sweet.

You were wearing a blue lei
The day that I first met you,
As we walked along the sand
By the blue, blue sea.
Without a cloud in the sky to caress us,
Not a tear have you or I to suppress us.

I will always remember
The moment that I kissed you,
And the smile upon your lips that was heavenly sweet.
When your blue eyes looked in to mine,
It was then the sun began to shine,
That day in May you wore a blue lei.

10. Kawailehua'a'alakahonua
By Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett

Ke iho la, ka u'a
Hali hali na lehua, o luna

Helele'i pua, i ke kai
Hula le'a na lehua i la moana

He kupala ka ua i ke kai
Ke hoi hou e aloha mai

He mele nou e ku'u lani

11. Auntie Clara

On Aloha Week in old Hana town,
I saw her ride by in a satin gown:
A goddess of flowers, a Hawaiian queen
That everyone calls Auntie Clara.

Descended from a line of ancient kings,
She plays ukulele and dances and sings,
And what makes her happy is to hear people laugh,
Which is easy around Auntie Clara.

She lives by the sea with the man that she loves,
And they raised eleven sisters and brothers.
And now their grandchildren number forty-two;
And soon, I bet, there will be others.

And she's taught them all to sing and to dance,
To work real hard and to love romance,
Just by the way that she spends her days,
Being happy being Auntie Clara.

She's delivered babies and planted trees,
And walked through volcanoes; she smiles with ease.
To me, she's the essence of old Hana town,
Besides being dear Auntie Clara.

God bless you, my dear Auntie Clara!

12. Living In Hawai'i Style

Moving slow, laughing long, smiling the aloha smile,
Everybody loves living in Hawaii style la la.

Down to the sea as the day is dawning,
Lavender and golden is the morning.
Snorkeling along the coral reef
Is beautiful beyond belief, oh la la.

Fragrance of the roadside awapuhi
Underneath the ulu and kukui,
Mountain apple booms; the o'o calls;
I'm swimming under waterfalls, oh la la.

The spirit of the land is the ancient chants,
The taro growing farms and the fishing camps,
Sweet hula au'wana, bold 'olapa,
Aloha of wahine and kanaka.

Moving slow, laughing long, smiling the aloha smile,
Everybody loves living in Hawaii style la la.

13. Maui Chimes
(instrumental, written by Sam Kapu in the 1890's)

14. Kaupo

Kaupo, Kaupo, where the wild winds blow,
The shadow of your evening thrills me now.
Kaupo, the moon upon your brow
Rides high upon the desert mountain skies.

The spirits of the warrior kings
Alight upon the seashores of Kaupo.
Arrive by night, awaken to the sight
Of light caressing hillsides of Kaupo.

Oh lonely Lualailua Hills
Knowing only the sea, the sky and the mountain!
Oh mighty Maunawainui Canyon
Gathering the storm waters and flooding deeply!
Oh majestic cliffs of the Kaupo Valley
Ascending to sacred Mount Haleakala!
Oh ruthless Alenuihaha Channel!
Oh sea of engulfing waves!
Oh growling black stones of Nuu
Ever turning in the tide!
Oh waterfall upon waterfall
Singing Alelelele!
Oh Huialoha Church alone beside the sea
Where, in the wild winds, we gather in love!
Oh millions of stars by night!
Oh snow-capped Mauna Kea by day!

Kaupo, Kaupo, where the wild winds blow,
The shadow of your evening thrills me now.
Kaupo, the moon upon your brow
Rides high upon the desert mountain skies.

15. Auntie Alice

I heard Auntie Alice play
Slack key guitar tuned this way
(It's called wahine tuning)
To her gentle crooning.

Her holoku was glistening;
Everyone was listening.
She wore the colors of the isle,
Made the people smile.

She was only seventeen
Playing guitar for the Queen.
Pretty Auntie Alice
At Iolani Palace.

She hears the songs the spirits sing,
Sees the light in everything,
Alice Namakelua;
Aloha ke akua.

16. Kipahulu

If you want to call on me, this is where I stay:
In a meadow, by a mango, Mau'ulili Bay.
Life is simple in the shadow of Haleakala;
Moon and raindrops for my crystal candelabra.
Let your feet dance down the boulders to the rushing stream,
Floating chilly, willy-nilly, to ancestral dreams.
Hear the spirits of the valley sing in soft guitars;
Mark the passage through the heavens: wind and cloud and stars.

Hear the cattle call as the evening falls.
Bamboo canyon walls, silver waterfalls,
Birds of ancient lineage, brilliant in their plumage,
Hidden by the foliage down from Paliku.

If you come to call on me, this is how I live:
Contemplating God's creation, learning how to give.
Kipahulu Valley people work the livelong day;
Then you'll see us in the evening, coming out to play.
Sudden rain may slice the sunlight, disappearing down.
Floating on the sea's horizon, Mauna Kea's crown.
Kaupo Gap, oh gate of heaven, clouds advance, retreat.
Verdant pasture, sleepy rapture, sky and mountain meet.

Hear the cattle call as the evening falls.
Bamboo canyon walls, silver waterfalls,
Birds of ancient lineage, brilliant in their plumage,
Hidden by the foliage down from Paliku.


Interview in The Hawaii Island Journal,
the Big Island's alternative bi-monthly newspaper,
by John Burnett, published January 1, 2002


Alicia Bay Laurel is a multitalented individual — author, artist, singer, songwriter, guitarist, businessperson and social activist. It seems her life and projects have either been touched by serendipity or blessed with divine inspiration and intervention, depending on one’s perspective.

She went from a self-described “naked hippie” to a best-selling author and media personality in 1971 at age 20 after her book “Living on the Earth” sold 350,000 copies and hit the New York Times bestseller list. She has written and published eight other books since and is now writing and recording her own CDs of both American folk open-tuning guitar music and Hawaiian slack key guitar music. She recently released her second CD, “Living in Hawai‘i Style,” with a colorful, self-designed cover and graphics package printed on 100 percent recycled paper and “Living on the Earth” has just been re-released in an expanded 30th anniversary edition.

Just a few of the luminaries who have either been mentors to Laurel or who have had a profound influence on her include the late humorist-publisher Bennett Cerf, Whole Earth Catalog founder and computer-information age maven Stewart Brand, legendary avant garde jazz drummer Joe Gallivan (who happens to be her boyfriend), songwriter and Hawaiian activist Liko Martin, Maui kumu hula Clara Kalalau Tolentino and the late American folk guitarist and musicologist John Fahey.

“I was about 14 and I’d been fooling around with the guitar for a couple of years when my cousin married John Fahey,” she said. “I listened to his albums, and then one day I just boldly went up to him and said ‘How do you do this?’ And he was kind enough to sit down and show me how to do an alternating thumb bass and how to pick the top three strings with the index, middle and ring fingers and how to make chords going up the neck and scales.

“I got to Hawai‘i for the first time in 1969. My mother brought me over here on a two-week vacation. We stayed in Kihei. In those days, there was only one place you could stay in Kihei, which was the Maui Lu. At pau hana, there was some employees playing music and singing to amuse themselves, and I walked over and heard them and realized the person playing the guitar was playing open tunings — and I had never heard anyone play open tunings any other style than John Fahey’s. It had been kind of a lonely time for me living on the mainland, because all the other guitar players that I knew were all rockers. Maybe a few players playing cotton-style picking, like ‘Freight Train.’ But there really weren’t any other open-tuned guitar players that I knew.

“So when I came here in ’69 and I heard those Hawaiian people playing their open tuning, I thought, ‘Wow, I’m in a country that has a national music that’s open-tuned guitar playing. I want to be here.’

“But I didn’t move here until five years later, after my book ‘Living on the Earth’ got published. Then, there were eight other books and the books all got published in Japanese. In ’74 I was on my way back from my Japan book tour. I stopped on Maui and I stayed for 25 years.”

Before she moved permanently to Hawai‘i, fame beckoned unexpectedly. At age 20, many of us are in college, some are in the military, and quite a few are in low paying food service jobs wearing funny hats and name tags and asking, “You want fries with that?” Few, at age 20, know much about living, yet Laurel wrote a book pretty much telling people how to live.

“I wasn’t intending that,” she said. “When I was 19, I went off to live on a commune in Northern California. I had dropped out of college. I had spent a few weeks at San Francisco State studying art. I was hitchhiking for fun one day. In those days, you could hitchhike for fun. I would be absolutely frightened if I had a daughter who hitchhiked for fun now, but in 1969, you could in Northern California. I went off to this wonderful commune that was 350 acres and was owned by an artist named Bill Wheeler.

“When I first got there, I realized that all the other people on the commune were as helpless as I was in terms of living with no electricity, no running water, no cars, no telephones. We were all trying to figure it out.

“So I appointed myself as the person who would go around and talk to everybody on the land and get the one piece of information that they had figured out. Then, I would put the information into little pamphlets that we would hand out to people as they arrived from the city, so everybody would know how to build a fire safely and dig a proper latrine. Lenny Bruce said that was the origin of police, telling people where they could or could not take a s--- so the water supply would stay safe.

“I started working on this thing and it just got out of hand. The next thing I knew, I had an over 200 page book and I couldn’t publish it myself. I didn’t have any money. I had a guitar, a sleeping bag and a dress. Fortunately, a friend of mine who lived at Wheeler’s named Ramon Sender had put on the San Francisco Trips Music Festival in January ’66 with Stewart Brand, who started the Whole Earth Catalog.

“He sent me to see Stewart. Stewart loved the manuscript but said he didn’t have the money to publish it himself. So he sent me to his distributor, Book People in Oakland. Book People had just started their own publishing company called Book Works, and Book Works published the first 10,000 copies of ‘Living on the Earth.’ It was only second book they had published.

“They sold out the 10,000 copies in two weeks, partly because it got a great review in Whole Earth Catalog and partly because Book People was the distributor, so they’d already put their book out there for the bookstores. That news came really quickly to Random House, who was trying to buy the rights to the Whole Earth Catalog.

“Bennett Cerf, who was the President of Random House, telephoned my publisher. I had no agent, nothing. He asked to buy the rights for Random House for ‘Living on the Earth.’ So it was sold to Random House and what they really did great was to put a whole lot of promotional muscle behind the book. They sold 350,000 copies of it and it was on the New York Times bestseller list.”

The book, published on recycled paper, is a treatise on country living with everything from how-to sections on backpacking and other survival skills, recipes and herbal home remedies, all written in the informal style of an extended note from a friend. It is handwritten in an engaging, childlike cursive and features intentionally crude but charming self-drawn illustrations, the style of which has influenced artists for the past 30 years, including Tom Wilson, the “Ziggy” cartoonist and the illustrators of Shoebox greeting cards.

“It was such a shock to me,” she said. “It was amazing to go from this naked hippie living on this big piece of land with a hundred other people to being a personality. There I was, going to New York and being on TV. I got to go on the David Frost Show and I thought, ‘Oh great! I get to show America what a hippie girl looks like. What can I do so I can have a fortune in wisdom? So I took mescaline. It was a great show.”

When Laurel moved to Hawai‘i in 1974, eager to get off the fame merry-go-round, she learned to sing in Hawaiian and play Hawaiian slack key guitar. Her mentor was Aunty Clara Kalalau Tolentino, the mother of the late Big Island singer-songwriter G-Girl Keli‘iho‘omalu.

“When I first came to Puna in ’93, I just walked into G-Girl’s back yard in Kalapana and said, ‘Hey, I used to play music with your mother,’ she said. “She invited me to come sit down and play music with her. It was a really nice visit.

“She told me that she wanted to introduce me to her producer, who was Rick (Asher) Keefer (who owns SeaWest Studio in Leilani Estates), but she passed away before that could come about. It just happened that I met Rick a completely different way. My boyfriend Joe Gallivan is a jazz musician. When it came time for me to make my first CD two years ago, he said, ‘You don’t want to go to somebody’s house studio with a computer. You want to go to a real studio with a real engineer. It costs about the same and it’s so much better.’ So I flew over here and as it turned out, this was the guy who engineered all of G-Girl’s records.”

Laurel herself moved to Leilani in 1999, where she says she loves “the birds, the quiet and the rainforest.” Her books, CDs and art prints can all be purchased at her Web site She is doing a series of “house concerts” which will be able to accommodate about 20 persons each. All are free, although there will be a calabash and donations will be accepted.

The dates, times and places include: Paradise Newland’s home in Hilo, Jan. 10, 7 p.m.;

Connie Faye's home in Holualoa, Jan. 26, 7 p.m.; Dragonfly Ranch Bed and Breakfast in Honaunau, Jan. 30, 7 p.m.; Xanadu (Zan Meyer's land) in Ocean View, Feb. 9, 2 p.m.; Ira Ono’s studio in Volcano, Feb. 10, 2 p.m. The Volcano appearance is part of an all-day music and hula event. Street directions will by posted on her voice mail at 334-3314 starting three days before the event. Information will also be posted on her Web site in the “tour schedule” section. There will be other events as well. All will be posted on her Web site.

Her five-year brush with celebrity has taught Laurel about the value of self-promotion.

“I don’t lust for fame, but on the other hand, I’m an artist and I want to make a living,” she concluded. “So I want to be known.

“The thing about fame which I didn’t understand then, but I do now, is that it’s nothing personal. It’s about making people aware that your product is available. It’s not like ‘I’m a great person.’ It’s like ‘yeah, there are these books, and these CDs and these T-shirts and these art prints and whatever.’ The more people know my name, the more they can decide whether these things are good or not for their lives to add to their herd of possessions.”


Interview by Alan McNarie
in the Hilo Tribune-Herald

published on January 23 as the lead article in the Kama'aina Shopper tabloid, and on January 25 on the first page of the Arts and Entertainment section of the paper.

When a teenaged Alicia Bay Laurel moved to a California commune in the late 1960s, she probably little suspected that she would be a best selling author by the time she turned 20. Or that over three decades later, she would be living in Hawaii and gaining new fans as an acknowledged slack key recording artist.

Laurel is currently doing what she calls a Big Island "mini-tour" to promote her new album, "Living in Hawai`i Style." But she's doing her tour in typical Alicia Bay Laurel style: uncommercial, low key, and as personal as possible. Her first performance was at a "CD release party" at a Hilo art gallery; her itinerary includes venues ranging from music festivals to coffee houses to churches to private homes. Her next two events will be at 7 p.m. on January 26 in Ahualoa at the home of Connie Faye, and at 7 p.m. and at 7 p.m. on January 30 at the Dragonfly Ranch in Kona. On February 26, she'll be doing a performance at Kalani Honua Eco-Resort in Puna.

Meanwhile, "Living on the Earth," the book that first brought her fame, has been re-released in a revised 30th-anniversary edition. The hand-written, hand-illustrated manual for living simply has been updated somewhat, with some new recipes, updated environmental information and, of course, web site addresses. And she's updated some of the passages to reflect new realities.

"In those days you could pretty much safely take fish on the ocean or a lake," Laurel sighs.

The book remains a timeless how-to manual on everything from sandal making to childbirth to do-it-yourself funeral cremation. But the decades have given it a whole new layer of meaning. It's a window, now, into what must seem to Gen Xers like a simpler and almost alien world: an age when AIDS was unknown, drugs were shared by gurus instead of pushed by cartels, nakedness was seen as innocent and people really believed that a new age of World Peace might be about to happen.

And according to Laurel, that world still exists. There are still communes, she says, all across the country from the West Coast's Lost Valley Educational Center to Dancing Rabbit in Missouri to The Farm in Tennessee. The Wheeler Ranch commune, where she wrote and drew "Living on the Earth," is still operating. So is nearby Star Mountain, which Laurel founded with royalties from "Living on the Earth."

And the communes are still pioneering ecological and social change. Dancing Rabbit members, for instance, use bio-diesel powered cars that run on recycled cooking oil. The Farm is famous for its birthing clinic, and operates non-profit outreach programs ranging from .camps for inner city children to aid for Central American disaster victims.

"It doesn't make the media a whole lot, but the commune world is growing and solidifying in a really positive way," believes Laurel.

Laurel got into that world when it was still brand new. She arrived in San Francisco a the height of the "Flower Power" movement in 1967, and soon found herself involved with a cast of characters that included Ken Kesey, "Whole Earth Catalog" founder Stewart Brand, avante-garde keyboardest Ramon Sender (who became the first person to play syntheizer with rock band when he teamed up with Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company) and folk guitar legend John Fahey.

Brand was to play a key role in her career as an author. Fahey would start her on a second career as a musician.

Laurel, the daughter of artist Verna Lebow Norman had taken up classical piano at age seven and folk guitar at Twelve. But Fahey's playing style intrigued her.

"Fahey was famous for American folk-style open tunings, which he learned from Mississippi delta blues players," she recalls. "When he was at our house at a party one day, I went up to him and asked, 'How do you play like that?'"

She learned Fahey's style herself, at some social cost. "All my friends that played guitar played rock," she recalls.

Meanwhile, she'd moved to Wheeler Ranch, a sprawling ridgetop commune near Bodega Bay in California.

"There was not a communal center household," she recalls. "It was more like a huge campground or a small town....We held potlucks, we did music together, we did sweat lodges. We had an organic garden, and cows and chickens...

"Living on the Earth" started off as a small pamphlet for new commune members.

"I felt that it was important that all of us city kids have some clues about how to be there," she recalls. So she began putting together some basic directions for living on the land: how to build a stove, grow organic food, make simple clothing....

"I ended up with a 200 page book," she laughs.

She met Stewart Brand through Sender, who had co-produced a rock concert with him and Ken Kesey. "Stewart offered to read my book, and he loved it," she recalls.

Brand introduced her to the owners of a new press, Bookworks Publishing, and provided a glowing review in "The Whole Earth Catalog." Bookwork's entire 10,000-copy print run sold out in two weeks. Random House then bought rights to the book, which went on to sell 350,000 copies over a nine-year print run. The book became an overseas sensation as well--especially in Japan. There's even a Tokyo restaurant named after Laurel: the "Restaurant Alicia."

The book also started a mini-revolution in the publishing world. Publisher's Weekly even did an article about it--handwritten and illustrated with line drawings, Alicia-style.

"Nobody knew that a book could look like that," muses Laurel.

An advertising agency approached Laurel to do an ad campaign for Cuervo Tequila, with ads on such themes as how to turn a Cuervo bottle into a planter. When Laurel turned them down, the company hired another artist to do the adds in the same style. The artist changed her name to "Laurel Birch" and signed the ads with that name.

"Abby Hoffman looked at it and said that I was the first great cosmic sellout,'" says the original Laurel, grinning ruefully.

Laurel went on to write and/or illustrate several more books. But meanwhile, her career and life were taking a whole new direction. During a visit to Hawaii in 1969, she had heard slack key music for the first time.

"I realized that I had come to a country where open-tuned guitar was part of the national music," she recalls.

After book tour of Japan in 1974, she says, "I stopped in Maui and I stayed for 25 years."

Laurel moved to Hana, and became friends with a musical family headed by Aunty Clara Kalalau Tolentino, whose offspring included the late Puna musician G-Girl Keli`iho`omalu. Laurel learned slack-key from Aunty Clara's son-in-law, Jerome Smith. Later she started a successful wedding planning business on the leeward side, and studied Hawaiian jazz guitar with Sam Ahia and slack key with Uncle Sol Kawaihoa.

Two years ago, she moved here to record an album of her early songs called "Music from Living on the Earth" which she recorded at Puna's Sea West Studio, before setting off on a 75-stop mainland tour. Her stops on that tour became far more than the usual bookstore signings: they were part story-telling, part concert, part theater, in which she performed her songs and described the world that produced "Living on the Earth."

When she got back, she started recording a new album, this time concentrating on Hawaiian music, both traditional and original, with the aid of Sam Ahia and chanter Lei`ohu Ryder. The result was the just released "Living in Hawaiian Style," which has gotten airplay on KAPA and earned her a spot at next July's Hilo Slack Key Festival.

The new album displays a broad range of styles, from slack key instrumental to hapa-haole to Hawaiian jazz. The lyrics are, of course, more mature than those of the first album, which covered songs of a young woman at the height of the Flower Power movement. And her lyrics are more polished now. A song about Kaupo Valley on the new album, for instance, expertly evokes not only the wild beauty of the valley, but also the spirit of ancient meles celebrating place:

The spirit of the warrior kings
Alight upon the seashores of Kaupo,
Arrive by night, awaken to the sight
Of light caressing hillsides of Kaupo....

But in some important ways, Alicia Bay Laurel still hasn't changed from that teenaged idealist, who once wrote songs about the joy of rolling in morning dew, and filled a book with hand-written texts on making orange marmalade and exuberant line drawings of naked people planting organic gardens, and who managed to parlay it into a New York Times best seller. She's still the gentle optimist, celebrating beauty and nature and the good parts of the human spirit.

This site is owned and copyrighted © 2004 by Alicia Bay Laurel