View Full Version : What songs did famous ukers play?

03-09-2015, 01:20 AM
We've probably all tried to impress sceptical guitarists with the power of ukuleles by saying that Jimi Hendrix, Joe Strummer, and other rock legends started out on ukulele, and there are even photos to prove that they at least picked a uke up. But does anyone know what music they played? It would be nice to be able to introduce a song by saying that Joe Strummer, or someone equally famous, played this on his uke, even if there is no video evidence.

03-09-2015, 02:29 AM
Aldrine Guerrero -- Europa.

Hands down the best ever. Watch it.

03-09-2015, 02:54 AM
George Harrison..........anything he played. End of conversation if the guy you are trying to impress is a guitar player. Maybe someone can pipe in with a specific song George did on uke that is recognizable.

Better yet is Paul McCartney playing "Something" on the uke at the concert for George. Youtube video has 1.7 million hits

03-09-2015, 03:34 AM
Here are a couple more

Eddie Vedder, lead singer for Pearl Jam. Has a solo ablum titled "Ukulele Songs", released about three years ago. Ukulele on every song

Neil Young just realeased the song Tumbleweed a couple months ago, it is on the radio. Just him singing and playing the ukulele.

03-10-2015, 11:18 PM
Most of the 1970s rockers only used the ukulele as a junior guitar, a stepping stone to the guitar, and testified they started out with skiffle music and folkrock: Rock Island Line, Goodnight Irene. And graduated to novelty pop songs like 'Does your chewing gum' before switching to the guitar and more groove-based rock music. That's what I picked up from biographies on Jimi Hendrix, Steve Marriott (won a ukulele at a seaside competition at age 8), Brian May, Ronny Wood, Ray Davis (got his ukulele after a brave first visit to the dentist!), Dave Davies, Rory Gallagher, Johnny Winter, Marty Wilde, the list goes on. I'm not sure about Gary Moore and Phil Lynott, but anyhow the list is impressive. The music all those legends played on their ukuleles probably wasn't.

Joe Strummer was a bit different. First, his inspirations were not typical: instead of Dylan and Donegan songs, he went to an earlier source of Woody Guthrie and even his first nickname was Woody. Second, he graduated from plastic soprano to a wooden baritone ukulele instead of a guitar, and started uke busking with blues (Muddy Waters songs especially) and early punk (his first steps in The Clash) - hence his final nickname.

As for legendary hit songs composed on ukuleles, none of those rockers probably need to apply. It's either the preceding jazz age (all the funny tin pan alley tunes, written mainly on piano but some with a ukulele at hand, 'When You Wish upon a Star' probably on top), the earliest compositions by Joni Mitchell (Big Yellow Taxi was actually written in Hawaii!), and the modern surge of ukulele pop and rock (fill in your favorite artist here) that are the best and most widely known ukulele-orginals.

It's a bit ironic that the modern ukulele anthems like 'Hey Soul Sister' and 'I'm Yours' were actually written on guitars, before being recorded with ukuleles.

03-10-2015, 11:33 PM
There is one famous rocker song from the 1970s, written on the ukulele!

David Bowie used a ukulele to write 'Lust for Life!' in Berlin, with lyrics by Iggy Pop.

03-11-2015, 06:41 AM
There's a video of George Harrison doing "Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" sitting outside with Paul and Ringo, the Westside Ukulele Ensemble does it regularly. The CC Strummers does "All of Me" and recently added "Big Yellow Taxi" to our song list, along with a very cute song written by Cali Rose, "Oo-Koo-Lay-Lay" that I think should be a standard for ukulele players.


03-11-2015, 06:44 AM
Pete Townshend: Blue, Red and Grey.

Proof of him playing:


And the original track from By Numbers:

03-11-2015, 06:46 AM
There's a video of George Harrison doing "Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" sitting outside with Paul and Ringo

Not sure about him sitting outside playing Devil, but here's the actual music video with him playing a Kamaka:


And the well-known sitting-outside one with Paul and Ringo, but the song is Ain't She Sweet:


The story at my local shop is that George used to come in and buy out their entire wall of Kamakas when he was in the neighborhood, so he could hand them out to his friends. No idea if it's true or not, but I like to think so.

Oh and - McCartney playing Something on uke, from Concert for George:

03-11-2015, 07:27 AM
Brian May, "Good Company," on Queen's A Night at the Opera!


May sells ukes that he designed --