The ukulele, also known as uke, is a guitar-like musical instrument having four nylon or gut strings. It is made of wood of various acoustic qualities. Spruce wood is considered to be of superior acoustic qualities, but cheaper versions are made of plywood or other laminates, while the more expensive versions are made of mahogany. The most expensive versions are made from the Hawaiian wood of Acacia Koa. On account of their industrial mass production, the all-plastic-made ukuleles are the most affordable, and many Canadian academic institutions use them for educative purposes. The ukulele is usually typically a figure 8 shaped, but sometimes they appear in different forms like the pineapple version, in a boat paddle form, and they may also be in a square, box shape. There are four conventional forms of the instrument having different tones, volumes, sizes, and constructions. They are: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. The total length of the soprano is 21 inches while that of the baritone is 30 inches. Concert and tenor are 23 inches and 26 inches respectively. Madeiran Cabinet, Manuel Nunes, and Espirito Santo are considered the first makers of the instrument. The Arthur Godfrey Show on television played a vital role in popularizing the ukulele songs as did the singer musician Tiny Tim.
1. ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’
‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ is an Academy Award-winning ballad song written for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz by E. Y. Harburg with music by Harold Arlen. It was sung by the actress Judy Garland in her starring role as Dorothy Gale. The Recording Industry Association of America rated it as number one on the list of Songs of the Century. The American Film Institute also included it as one of the greatest movie songs on the list of AFI’s 100 Years’¦100Songs. U.S. troops adopted it as an American symbol, and Garland performed the song for U.S. troops in 1943. In 2005, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in its recognition. Its lyrics are:
Way up high,
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me.
Somewhere over the rainbow.
2. ‘Tip Toe Through the Tulips’
‘Tip Toe Through the Tulips’ is a famous song written by Al Dubin and composed by Joe Burke. It was published in 1929. In 1930 it was used in Sinkin in the Bathtub, the first-ever Looney Tunes cartoon. It was also mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Holland High School plays the song each year at the Tulip Time Festival:
Oh, tiptoe from the garden
By the garden of the willow tree
And tiptoe through the tulips with me
Knee deep in flowers we’ll stray
We’ll keep the showers away
And if I kiss you in the garden, in the moonlight
Will you pardon me?
And tiptoe through the tulips with me.
3. ‘I’m Yours’
‘I’m Yours’ was written and sung by Jason Marz. It was nominated for Grammy Awards for the Song of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the 51st Grammy Awards. It holds the record 76 weeks on the Hot 100. It is the eighth, best-selling digital song of all time in the U.S. Some of its lyrics are:
‘Before the cool done run out I’ll be giving it my bestest
‘¦But I won’t hesitate no more, no more
It cannot wait, I’m yours
‘¦So I won’t hesitate no more, no more
It cannot wait, I’m sure
There’s no need to complicate, our time is short
This is our fate, I’m yours.’
4. ‘Hey, Soul Sister’
‘Hey, Soul Sister’ is sung by the American rock band Train. It was written and performed by lead singer Patrick Monahan, Espen Lind, and Amund Bjorklund. It reached number 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100. ‘Hey, Soul Sister’ received a Grammy Award for ‘Train at 53rd’ Annual Grammy Awards. A few lyrics are:
I knew when we collided
You’re the one I have decided
Who’s one of my kind’¦
Hey, soul sister
I don’t wanna miss
A single thing you do tonight
Hey, hey, hey.’
‘Billionaire’ is the debut single by Travie McCoy. It was produced by Smeezingtons including Mars, Philip Lawrence, and Ari Levine. It has sold 3,000,000 digital downloads, and it is Mars’ third 3-million seller. McCoy imagines what would be the course of things to happen if and when he becomes a billionaire:
I wanna be a billionaire so bad
Buy all of the things I never had
I wanna be on the cover of Forbes magazine
Smiling next to Oprah and the Queen…
I swear the world better prepare
For when I’m a billionaire.
6. ‘No Woman No Cry’
Written by Vincent Ford, ‘No Woman No Cry’ was sung by Bob Marley and The Wailers including Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Neville who is also known as Bunny Wailer. It was recorded for Island Recorders in 1973. The song became famous in 1974 through the album Natty Dread. The song starts with ‘No woman cry,’ repeated for four times. Lyrics of the song are reflective of the empathy contained in it:
‘¦No woman, no cry
Said, said, said I remember when we used to sit
In the government yard in Trenchtown
And then Georgie would make the fire light
Log wood burnin’ through the night
Then we would cook corn meal porridge
Of which I’ll share with you
My feet is my only carriage
So I’ve got to push on through
But while I’m gone…
Everything’s gonna be all right.
7. ‘I Will Follow You into the Dark’
‘I Will Follow You into the Dark’ is sung by Death Cab for Cutie. It was written and performed by Ben Gibbard. Ben Gibbard wrote it when he was 29, had never lost a near dear one, yet thought of the death and the afterlife. He said, ‘It’s just this idea that what if somebody dies and we’re just floating, just stumbling around in infinite darkness, and I’m just trying to find some kind of spiritual kind of peace with myself, and the world.’
I’ll follow you into the dark
No blinding light
Or tunnels to gates of white
Just our hands clasped so tight,
Waiting for the hint of a spark’¦
8. ‘The Lazy Song’
The Lazy Song was written by the American artist Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine and K’naan. It was produced by The Smeezingtons and released on February 15, 2005. It topped the list in U.S. The song was re-recorded by the Brazilian singer Gretchen in 2011.
Today I don’t feel like doing anything
I just wanna lay in my bed.
Don’t feel like picking up my phone
So leave a message at the tone
‘Cause today I swear I’m not doing anything.
I’ll be lounging on the couch,
Just chillin’ in my snuggie.
Click to MTV, so they can teach me how to dougie
‘Cause in my castle I’m the freaking man.
Lucky is a song from Britney Spear’s album Oops!…I Did It Again. ‘Lucky’ was a commercial success reaching number one in Austria, Europe, Sweden, and Switzerland. It is Britney Spear’s 10th, best-selling single. Spears performed the song for the first time in 2000. Its lyrics are sweet and attractive:
Do you hear me;
I’m talking to you
I’m lucky I’m in love with my best friend
Lucky to have been where I have been
Lucky to be coming home again
Every time we say goodbye
I wish we had one more kiss
I’ll wait for you I promise you, I will.
10. ‘Ain’t She Sweet’
Milton Ager had written the song, ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ for her daughter Shana Ager who would be later the political commentator Shana Alexander. It was composed and written by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen. It was the hit song in the first half of the 20th century. Both Ager and Yellen were elected for the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. Its lyrics are:
There she is! There she is!
There’s what keeps me up at night
Oh, gee whiz! Oh, gee whiz!
There’s why I can’t eat a bite
Those flaming eyes! That flaming youth
Oh mister, Oh sister
Ain’t she sweet?
The quality of the ukulele is influenced by many factors like its shape, size, volume, construction material, acoustic quality of the wood used, or the quality of the string material. The most important factor behind the quality of ukulele songs is the singer behind it. Many a talented and gifted person have produced superb songs out of cheap, plastic versions, while many a wealthy person has failed to produce a song of any notable worth, even having used the most expensive mahogany and Koa versions.