"Aloha ʻOe" (Farewell to Thee) is a Hawaiian popular song written circa 1878 by Liliʻuokalani, who was then Princess of the Hawaiian Kingdom. It is her most famous song and is a common cultural symbol for Hawaii.
The story of the origin of the song has several variations. They all have in common that the song was inspired by a notable farewell embrace given by Colonel James Harbottle Boyd during a horseback trip taken by Princess Liliʻuokalani in 1877 or 1878 to the Boyd ranch in Maunawili on the windward side of Oʻahu, and that the members of the party hummed the tune on the way back to Honolulu. Different versions tell of alternate recipients of the embrace—either Liliʻuokalani's sister Princess Likelike Cleghorn or a young lady at the ranch. According to the most familiar version of the story:
This tender farewell set Liliʻuokalani to thinking, and she began humming to herself on the homeward trip. Overhearing, Charles Wilson observed, "That sounds like The Lone Rock by the Sea," a comment with which Liliʻuokalani is said to have agreed. When the party paused to rest in an orange grove on the Honolulu side of the Pali, the others joined in the hummings, and the song was completed later at Washington Place.
The Hawaiʻi State Archives preserves a hand-written manuscript by Liliʻuokalani, dated 1878, with the score of the song, the lyrics, Liliʻuokalani's English translation, and her note evidently added later: "Composed at Maunawili 1878. Played by the Royal Hawaiian Band in San Francisco August 1883 and became very popular."
A catalogue issued by Columbia Records in 1901 mentioned two wax cylinders labeled "Vocal Solos in Hawaiian", containing the earlier recordings of "Aloha ʻOe" and "Kuʻu Pua I Paoakalani". However, it is uncertain if this was recorded in Hawaii or if the performer was Hawaiian and the cylinders are now lost. Columbia Records later recorded a duet of the song by Nani Alapai and Henry N. Clark in 1911. A 1913 score can be seen at the Levy Sheet Music Collection.
|Haʻaheo e ka ua i nā pali||Proudly swept the rain by the cliffs|
|Ke nihi aʻela i ka nahele||As it glided through the trees|
|E hahai (uhai) ana paha i ka liko||Still following ever the bud|
|Pua ʻāhihi lehua o uka||The ʻāhihi lehua[a] of the vale|
|Aloha ʻoe, aloha ʻoe||Farewell to thee, farewell to thee|
|E ke onaona noho i ka lipo||The charming one who dwells in the shaded bowers|
|One fond embrace,||One fond embrace,|
|A hoʻi aʻe au||Ere I depart|
|Until we meet again||Until we meet again|
|ʻO ka haliʻa aloha i hiki mai||Sweet memories come back to me|
|Ke hone aʻe nei i||Bringing fresh remembrances|
|Kuʻu manawa||Of the past|
|ʻO ʻoe nō kuʻu ipo aloha||Dearest one, yes, you are mine own|
|A loko e hana nei||From you, true love shall never depart|
|Maopopo kuʻu ʻike i ka nani||I have seen and watched your loveliness|
|Nā pua rose o Maunawili||The sweet rose of Maunawili|
|I laila hiaʻai nā manu||And 'tis there the birds of love dwell|
|Mikiʻala i ka nani o ka liko||And sip the honey from your lips|
Parts of "Aloha 'Oe" resemble the song "The Lone Rock by the Sea" and the chorus of George Frederick Root's 1854 song "There's Music in the Air". "The Lone Rock by the Sea" mentioned by Charles Wilson, was "The Rock Beside the Sea" published by Charles Crozat Converse in 1857, and itself derives from a Croatian/Serbian folk song, "Sedi Mara na kamen studencu" (Mary is Sitting on a Stone Well).
The song also plays in many episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants, albeit in instrumental form.
The song also plays in Disney's Lilo and Stitch where Nani sings to Lilo, in beautiful soft tones.
In the episode "Cruise Cat" of the Tom and Jerry in 1952, a guitar version of this song became one of the animation's Background music, and the destination of the liner in the episode was Hawaii.
In the first episode of the 1963 Hanna-Barbera cartoon; Top Cat entitled "Hawaii, Here We Come", at the start of the episode, Benny the Ball sings the song, after winning a free trip to Hawaii, sometime later Officer Dibble also sings the song. They both however replace some of the lyrics with English ones.
"Aloha 'Oe" appeared in the scores of many of Warner Bros.' classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons, as composer Carl Stalling's stock musical cue for Hawaii-themed gags. Usually instrumental, but Bugs Bunny actually sings one line of the refrain at the very end of Case of the Missing Hare. In the 1953 cartoon short, Duck Amuck part of it is briefly sung by Daffy Duck when the scenery is changed to a Hawaiian setting, courtesy of a sadistic mystery animator and again in A Squeak in the Deep. In the 1958 Oscar-winning short Knighty Knight Bugs, the cartoon ends with an enchanted sword performing an instrumental version of the song (played by a musical saw).
When Jiang Zemin, then-Chinese President and the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, arrived at Hawaii at the beginning of his state visit to U.S. in October 1997, he played "Aloha ‘Oe" with a Hawaiian lap steel guitar and invited then Hawaiian First Lady Vicky Cayetano to sing the song at a dinner with the presence of Governor Ben Cayetano. Jiang recounted that he used to frequently play this song when he was in college in 1940s.
It also used in the final scene of Train to Busan when Soo-an sings in the tunnel as tribute to her father's sacrifice.
The Castaways sing the song as a good luck charm to a robot toward the end of the Gilligan's Island episode, Gilligan's Living Doll as it is about to walk from the island underwater all the way to Hawaii.
Media related to Aloha ʻOe at Wikimedia Commons