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This was written by Queen Lili'uokalani (the last Hawaiian monarch) in 1878. Lili'uokalani intended this to be a love song but it ended up being a farewell song. It has since become a worldwide traditional classic farewell song. English lyrics were added in 1923 as well as an alternate title: "Farewell to Thee."
Legend has it that Queen Lili'uokalani wrote this song while imprisoned in the 'Iolani Palace during the annexation of Hawai'i to the US, but this is not entirely true. The true story is as follows: she visited the Maunawili Ranch in O'ahu, where Edwin Boyd resided. While riding home on horseback to Honolulu, she turned to look at the view of Kaneohe Bay and suddenly saw Colonel James Boyd and a young Maunawili lady. The inspiration for the song came when she saw the two people slowly and affectionately bid each other farewell. Twenty years later, she used this song as a farewell to Hawai'i as Hawai'i lost its independence and became part of the US.
Elvis Presley covered this for the soundtrack of the 1961 movie Blue Hawaii, which he also starred in. (thanks, Jerro - New Alexandria, PA, for all above)
This was covered by Johnny Cash on American VI: Ain't No Grave, the sixth and final collaboration between The Man in Black and producer Rick Rubin. During the 10-year period in which they were recording together, Rubin and Cash would take turns in sending each other unexpected songs they wanted to try recording. Rubin described this to Mojo magazine March 2010 as "a very bizarre choice" of Cash's. "A Hawaiian song that Johnny always wanted to sing but never seemed to fit anywhere. It's not cheesy at all. It's very moving."
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