Who doesn’t love a good ukulele tune? I try not to spend too much time sitting in front of YouTube, but those videos of Jake Shimabukuro are really amazing, particularly to a guy who can’t barely play two bars on the ukulele without nearly dropping it (note to self: start a ukulele-strap business).
The quintessential ukulele tune of our generation is Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s medley of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow / Wonderful World“. It’s great acoustic music: just Iz’s voice and a single ukulele, and it’s hard to imagine that adding anything to that recording would have made it better.
Well… one thing. I have to admit it drives me crazy that Mr. Kamakawiwo’ole gets the lyrics to “Somewhere” so wrong. Louis Armstrong sang “The bright, blessed day / the dark, sacred night”. Iz shortened it to “The brightness of day / I like the dark”. Dark. To rhyme with “white”. (Confession: I didn’t quite get it right, either. I kept “brightness of day” rather than going back to the original, out of ignorance. Still, at least mine rhymes!)
The story behind Iz’s recording (and I don’t know if it’s true) is that he recorded the song on impulse, dropping in on a recording studio at 4am one morning and recording the it in one take. That was 1988. The song was added to an album of his in ’93, but somehow didn’t really pick up steam until around 2010. As it started to really catch on, the publisher tried to reach him to get a new recording (with the correct lyrics), but sadly Mr. Kamakawiwo’ole had passed away a few years earlier.
I don’t suppose our version will outsell Iz’s, but it’s such a great song and his rendition is so inspiring, I think the world can stand to have one more. The instruments here are a ukulele (standard GCEA tuning) and a baritone uke (standard DGBE tuning).
This song is available on YouTube only, due to rights issues. Please enjoy (and share)