Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs


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Come Alive and This Is Me, from “The Greatest Showman” [UPDATED]

From the dark sounds of grunge to the corniest of dance-pop musicals, never let it said that you don’t get variety on these pages.

<Come Alive>  <This Is Me>

The Greatest Showman has become something of a phenomenon. A contemporary musical loosely based on the life of celebrated American showman P.T. Barnum (and, by all accounts, taking a slightly revisionist view of his character), the film opened to something of a critical mauling at the end of last year, but has seen its star slowly rise through word-of-mouth to become the most unlikely movie success of the year. Even now, 9 months after it’s release, it is still showing at cinemas around the country, with new life being breathed into it by hugely popular sing-a-long events.

Let’s be clear. This film is not subtle and is somewhat formulaic. But it is also hugely entertaining, a constant barrel of energy and exuberance, driven by a star performance from Hugh Jackman, and a supporting cast that includes Zac Efron and Michelle Williams. And a power-packed set of original songs that carry the film through to its inevitable, feel good conclusion. The soundtrack is the work of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who were also responsible for the Oscar-winning City Of Stars, from the slightly less feelgood La La Land.

And so to the songsheets. For Come Alive, this – like a number of the songs from the film – really needs a strong rhythmic backing to work. I’m not going to try and suggest a strumming pattern for this, but you could do worse than listen to the rhythms in the song and try and ape that. Plenty of muted strums will add to the effect – some of those are indicated in the songsheet with the [X] chord. The song also has a number of places where it breaks into acapella / clapped interludes, that again you could do worse than try and emulate. Probably best sung with a group of singers.

As for This Is Me, this is becoming something of a modern classic. The gentle start, and breakdown at the beginning of the last chorus, are worth emulating to give the song some texture. Note that some of the lyrics overlaps, particularly with the oh-oh-oh-oh’s, and along with plenty of opportunities for backing vocals and harmonies, this is probably best tried with a group of singers.

Enjoy!

<Come Alive>  <This Is Me>

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Rainbow Connection

KermitDon’t ever let it be said that there’s no variety on this site. From 80s synthpop and soulful grooves, we now move on to a song made famous by a singing frog playing the banjo!

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Rainbow Connection, however, is not your average glove-puppet inspired tune. The work of two highly respected composers and arrangers, Paul Williams (“We’ve Only Just Begun”, “Rainy Days and Mondays”, “Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)”) and Kenneth Ascher, the song first came to the consciousness of the world via. The Muppet Movie, where it was performed by Kermit the Frog. Performing a similar role in that film to the similarly-themed “Over The Rainbow” in The Wizard Of Oz, the song is a surprisingly wistful song that looks yearns and dreams for, and holds out the hope for, a better life. Nominated for an Academy Award (it lost out to “It Goes Like It Goes” from Norma Rae – no, me neither!) it has over the years turned into a true standard.

Subsequently reprised in The Muppet Show in 1980 as a duet with Debbie Harry, it has since gone on to be covered by a whole host of artists including The Carpenters, Sarah McLachlan, Willie Nelson, Ed Sheerhan, and my personal favourite version by The Dixie Chicks.

There are quite a few Rainbow Connection song sheets out there, so why another one? Well this was put together for when our band, The Flukes wanted to perform it (you can see/hear it below – excuse the slightly fluffed intro and solo from yours truly!), and none of the versions out there quite worked for us. So firstly this version does away with the key change, thereby avoiding a host of horrible chords! Secondly, I’ve also include (a) the opening riff, and (b) a solo for the middle, which started off based on The Dixie Chicks version, and then morphed into some kind of amalgam of a number of versions. Anyway, I think the whole thing is better picked than strummed, but that’s my opinion, and you’re free to ignore it. Enjoy!
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Feeling Good – Nina Simone

ninasimoneOur band, The Flukes, has been starting to find its feet, and have been gradually evolving towards a preference for jazzy, bluesy, country type material. So when we were looking for new material to add to our repetoire, it didn’t take long before this 1960s classic came to the surface.

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Amazingly, this song was never released as a single back in the day, only surfacing in that format in 1994 off the back of a TV advert. Yet this is as well known and loved as anything from the Nina Simone catalogue. Written in 1964 by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for the musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, Simone recorded it a year later for her album. It is fair to say that it was Simone’s recording that really transformed the original and turned it into a standard that has subsequently been covered by artists as diverse as Muse, Michael Bublé and The Pussycat Dolls.

The songsheet is in the same key as the Nina Simone version. It is essentially made up of a continual loop based on G minor, with a C / D sequence thrown in during the chorus. The G minor sequence includes a G / F / Eb / D run-down on the bass – not easy to achieve on the little ukulele, but I think the chords shown here work. The Gm/D is a bit of a stretch (for me, at least) but is worth persevering with. Enjoy!

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You Give A Little Love – from “Bugsy Malone”

bugsymaloneMusicals are a strange beast. Some people can’t stand them, and certainly in some circles your musical credibility takes a nose-dive if you express even a smidgen of interest in them. Others love them, particularly the escapist, fantasy world they can create, and there’s a whole world of them out there that you can lose yourself in if you wish. Me, I sit somewhere in the middle of those extremes (what do you know!).

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For me, the best musicals take you on an emotional journey where music, lyric, story and staging combine to create a credible other world that does something none of those elements can do on their own. So shows like Les Miserables, West Side Story and Blood Brothers, neither of which could be classified as escapist fun, are ones I would see over and again. Of the little I’ve come across (A Little Night Music and Into The Woods) I’ve really enjoyed Stephen Sondheim’s work as well, even though they’re not big on blockbuster tunes (the classic Send In The Clowns excepted). More recently Matilda was one I particularly enjoyed.

But I also have time for the more traditional musicals, particularly those from the golden age of such in the mid 20th-century. I think that may be partly my parents fault(!) but shows like Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Calamity Jane, Annie Get Your Gun and 42nd Street are just feel good bonanza’s.

But for sheer fun and feel-good vibes, you’d have to go a long way to beat Bugsy Malone. Featuring an all-child cast (including Jodie Foster and Scott Baia) the show is set in 1920s America during prohibition, and focusses on the exploits of a bunch of gangsters, although with the real-life bullets and machine guns being replaced with custard-shooting splurge guns. Directed by Alan Parker, whose film career has included other musicals such as Fame, The Commitments and Evita, the music was written by Paul Williams, notable for pop successes such as We’ve Only Just Begun for The Carpenters, and Evergreen, sung by Barbara Streisand from the film A Star Is Born. But for Bugsy, he composed a set of songs that reflect both the time the film is set, but also give it a more (1970s) contemporary feel. You Give A Little Love is the rousing, sing-along closing song from the film, noticably sung after the mother of all splurge gun fights, with the whole cast covered in custard!

So here’s the song sheet. I thought this might work largely because the instrumentation on the original (is that a banjo in there) seemed to lend itself to a strummed ukulele. I can’t find a lot of evidence that this does work out there, but having played with this a bit I’m sure it will. The chords are reasonably straightforward, although you can embelish it with – in particular – a nice G / F# / F / E7 run at the end of the third line in each verse (it is a bit quick, though). And playing the A chord in the second line as a slide up two frets from the G in the first line works well too. I’ve also transcribed the introduction – a nice clashing chord followed by a little riff. Listen to the original and you’ll work it out. Oh, and keep going at the end for as long as you want. Enjoy!

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