SONGS: Gabby Pahinuiʻs recordings of “Hiʻilawe”

In the last post I pointed to early printings of the mele “Hiʻilawe”–in a 1902 songbook (where the mele appears with two different tunes) and in the newspaper Ke Aloha Aina in 1906.

The song is now forever associated with singer/kī hō‘alu/steel guitarist Gabby Pahinui. He recorded it in the 1940s, then again in the 1970s. And most recently it has come back around again in the soundtrack to the motion picture The Descendants (2011).

There are at least five different recordings of “Hiʻilawe” by Gabby Pahinui. In chronological order, they are:

1. 1947: A 78rpm recording on Aloha Records (Aloha 810). This is the recording excerpted on the opening track of the 1972 LP Gabby (the “brown” album); the first two verses of “Hi‘ilawe” segue into “Lū‘au Hula.” The 1947 track is reissued in its entirety on four compilations:

The History of Slack Key Guitar (HanaOla HOCD-2400, p1995)

Aloha Hula Hawaiian Style (HanaOla HOCD-26000, p1995)

Legends of Falsetto (HanaOla HOCD-35000, p2000)

Territorial Airwaves (HanaOla HOCD-56000, p2004)

2. 1949: A 78rpm recording on Bell Records (LKS-505). This recording has reappeared on the folioing compilations:

Hawaiian Masters Collection Vol. 2 (Tantalus TR-1003, p1993)

Show Biz Hula (HanaOla HOCD-22000, p1995)

Lei of Stars (HanaOla HOCD-31000, p1998)

Yuki ‘Alani Yamauchi presents The History of Hawaiian Music (Office Sambinha RICE OSR-405, p2001)

Twilight in Hawaii (Sounds of the World SOW 90203, p2002)

3. 1961: from a series of recording sessions at Central Union Church. Those tracks and an insightful interview was released on the LP Pure Gabby (Hula HS-567) in 1978. This is the version of “Hiʻilawe” that is heard in the film The Descendants, and on its soundtrack album.

4.1972:  The complete song appears on the LP  (the “brown” album): Gabby (Panini PS-1002). This track was included on the compilation CD Pure Hawaiian (Quiet Storm QS-1010, p2001).

5. 1974: A live performance at the Waimea Music Festival, on the LP Waimea Music Festival (Panini PS-1006). This track was reissued on The Panini Collection (Panini Records 39476-2016-2, p2004).

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1 Response to SONGS: Gabby Pahinuiʻs recordings of “Hiʻilawe”

  1. Russell Letson says:

    I’m curious about the dating of the early recordings–I’ve been relying on the dates given in the notes for the Hana Ola “History” CD: 1946 for the Bell and 1947 for the Aloha version. (1946 has been George Winston’s date for the Bell sessions for as long as I can recall.) It’s not a huge deal, though the dates you have would switch the title of “First Known Slack Key Recording” from the Bell to the Aloha release. What’s more interesting to me is that there might be a solid primary source of information on session or release dates out there. Have I missed something obvious?

    Interesting that Hawaiian Music and Musicians has as Gabby’s “first hit” record a 1955 “Hi`ilawe” but doesn’t mention either the Bell or Aloha versions–even though Bell 505 is in the discography at the back of the book. (Of course, a hit, even a radio hit, isn’t the same as an historically-important and influential record.) I take the ’55 version to be the one for Waikiki Records that Peter Medeiros mentions in his book and that wound up on the Hawaiian Slack Key compilation LP. My rummaging around came up with a Waikiki 45 (45-558) B-side (listed in the Wesleyan U. Library). I’m also finding conflicting information of the dates–Peter Medeiros and the HMM put this “Hi`ilawe” at 1955, but elsewhere HMM has Waikiki only founded in 1958. (Harry B. Soria’s bio of Bill Ali`iloa Lincoln on the iSound site cites the same year.) On the third hand, a May 18, 1968 issue of Billboard says that Waikiki is “16-years old.” But what do they know.

    I’m also curious about the melody of Gabby’s version of “Hi`ilawe,” which I recall being one attached to the words in the 1920s (and thus still copyright-protected), but that’s a topic for another time.

    (Trying to get back to work on my slack key book after a long period of avoidance.)

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