Category Archives: Music

7-day Uke challenge final song: “On the Sunny Side of the Street”

In terms of the Great American Songbook, you can’t go wrong with anything written by Jimmy McHugh and lyrics by Dorothy Fields. The song is premised on the idea that that we can choose to be happy; this may be the essence of why I so enjoy playing the baritone uke in my bathrobe for just me and my cat. When I’m playing and singing a song I like and realize that I’m doing it well, I sometimes get this strange flutter in my chest, just under my ribcage.

I’m told it’s “joy.”

I don’t know the exact provenance of “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” but it seems like a Tin Pan Alley tune that would have made the rounds in a several different revues of the time. Back in the day, more people knew how to play instruments than bought mechanical recordings, which means music publishing was where the money is. In Depression-era America, this song was a big hit.

Here’s my version: I warn you, it’s peppy:

And here’s Keely Smith’s: hers is lushly orchestrated and fairly bursts at the seams with emotion. (Show off!)

This 7-day uke challenge was a lot tougher than I thought. Part of that is my performance anxiety, since I’ve never wanted to be the guy at a coffeeshop’s open night who’s mastered four chords but still wants those in attendance to hear his stunning re- intrepretation of “Space Oddity.”

I don’t play as badly as I thought, and when I sing along, the overall quality improves. Still, I’m going to find a teacher in the new year who can teach me fingering and picking techniques (settle down, Beavis). In any event, thanks for the feedback over the last week; my fragile male ego and I thank you. I hope to improve and share more songs with you.


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Day 7 of the uke challenge: postponed until tomorrow

I have no idea what the upstairs neighbors are doing to make so much noise, but it’s a five-person flat and the possibilities are endless. Rather than ask them to be still so I can entertain my public, I’ll record tomorrow’s final entry while those clodhoppers are at their day obs.

Thanks for your indulgence.

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“My Favorite Things,” day 5 of the week-long uke challenge

I had no idea that there was an updated version of The Sound of Music on TV last night. I’ve seen the original film so many times it’s etched into memory. It’s a little kitschy for me, but any movie in which people are fleeing Nazis can’t be all bad. Besides, you get moments like these where everything just works out perfectly and your heart swells.

Here’s mine:

The version of this song I truly appreciate is John Coltrane’s cover, but it shares nothing in common with my version other than a basic melody and the fact that they were both recorded by black men in their 40s. I won’t pretend to know his motivation for transforming this treacly show tune into a jazz standard, but it’s an act of American genius, if I may wax jingoistic.

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