George Harrison Explains Why Everyone Should Play the Ukulele, With Words and Music


George Harrison loved the ukulele, and really, what’s not to love? For its dainty size, the uke can make a powerfully cheerful sound, and it’s an instrument both beginners and expert players can learn and easily carry around. As Harrison’s old friend Joe Brown remarked, “You can pick up a ukulele and anybody can learn to play a couple of tunes in a day or even a few hours. And if you want to get good at it, there’s no end to what you can do.” Brown, once a star in his own right, met Harrison and the Beatles in 1962 and remembers being impressed with the fellow uke-lover Harrison’s range of musical tastes: “He loved music, not just rock and roll…. He’d go crackers, he’d phone me up and say ‘I’ve got this great record!’ and it would be Hoagy Charmichael and all this Hawaiian stuff he used to like. George was not a musical snob.”

“Crackers” may be the perfect word for Harrison’s uke-philia; he uses it himself in the adorable note above from 1999. “Everyone I know who is into the ukulele is ‘crackers,’” writes George, “you can’t play it and not laugh!” Harrison remained upbeat, even during his first cancer scare in 1997, the knife attack at his home in 1999, and the cancer relapse that eventually took his life in 2001. The ukulele seemed a sweetly genuine expression of his hopeful attitude. And after Harrison’s death, it seemed to his friends the perfect way to memorialize him. Joe Brown closed the Harrison tribute concert at Royal Albert Hall with a uke version of “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” and Paul McCartney remembered his friend in 2009 by strumming “Something” on a ukulele at New York’s Citi Field.

In his remarks, McCartney fondly reminisced: “Whenever you went round George’s house, after dinner the ukuleles would come out and you’d inevitably find yourself singing all these old numbers.” Just above, see Harrison and an old-time acoustic jazz ensemble (including Jools Holland on piano) play one of those “old numbers”—“Between The Devil and Deep Blue Sea”—in 1988. The song eventually wound up on his last album, the posthumously released Brainwashed. Just below, see Harrison, McCartney, and Ringo Starr sing a casually harmonious rendition of the 1927 tune “Ain’t She Sweet” while lounging picnic-style in a park.

In Hawaii, where Harrison owned a 150-acre retreat, and where he was known as Keoki, it’s said he bought ukuleles in batches and gave them away. The story may be legend, but it certainly sounds in character. He was a generous soul to the end. Just below, see Harrison strumming and whistling away in a home video made shortly before his death. You can hear the hoarseness in his voice from his throat cancer, but you won’t hear much sadness there, I think.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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  • Angel Sanchez Borges says:

    Peanuts frame (In Spanish):

    salúd !

  • Garett Barr says:

    Does anyone have a hi res version of this picture? I would love to print it and put it on the wall of my studio.

  • Elaine rose says:

    Have just found your face book page. It looks really interesting and I’ll be visiting ng frequently.

  • Cynthia Campbell says:

    The “park” the trio (Paul, George, Ringo) are relaxing in is George’s house. He was manic about getting the grounds just right.

  • maion Ravenscroftr says:

    Tiny Tim needs to be mentioned here He had a Martin Ukelele He remembered every song that had been published since 1910 !
    Or earlier. He helped look after my daughter when she was little and played her delightful ditties all day long. He is sadly missed !

  • Jennifer says:

    George used to carry ukes around in his car to give to friends. My left-handed best friend is taking lessons – I’ll have to ask her if she’s pulling a Jimi Hendrix or is playing left handed.

  • martina eich says:

    Have l makme a video? Can l p
    laly ukulele? – Mr. j. and br.

  • martina eich says:

    was soll die scheisse?? ich bin halb tot mr. j. and br. – M.E. – lebst du ueberhaupt noch? your newcommertree palentyty😈

  • tina eich says:

    To Helloween: Hollydays on Saturn!!! 😨😀😦😑!!!
    After Helloween: 😃

    Your plentychild 😊

  • tina eich says:

    Wath? I am from pighome, do you remember? I can speak, have the allove (rosa) and i am so sweet and lovely!🐽

  • tina eich says:

    Yes, I have it!!! Thankens yyou for all too!!! 🐜

  • tina eich says:

    15.120 days I wars whaiting for a gardencnome … thank you!!! 😃

  • tina eich says:

    Sometimes we see a nose in the univers… your? We all in germany know now you whatching us, we need Good not, but you and we all belive in you master of the univers Hansemann!!! your child in thaughts! And please safe the 🐘!!! – You have humor?!!!!!!!!!!.

  • tinapy says:

    😗for you from you forever!!! be young and brity for and mr. stick!1!

  • tina eich says:

    my friends, my guru…

  • tinapy says:

    this word you after for.

  • tina says:


  • tina says:

    How do you feel??? I understand the world not! 😭 – that’s me!!!

  • tina says:

    Remember me?: Noyes? But the nose in the univers…nightmares…YOU, Mr. relasedady simpson…three points…the death witch-thank YOU…jungo 30…sticks on my haed (aua)…and so on…yes I am…yes I remember me at YOU!!! – 🐽 and I have alllove too, not only YOU!!! – mhm…

  • tina says:

    …and we never without us…and where is my dady mornigstar pomfgod…yes yes, remembers without…and I read again and have YOU not see…and a devil as a…-not my one 😬…. Take care of you!!! Have you read the newspaper?😭😔

  • tina says:

    Carwash: Danke dass Du mich daran erinnert hast, wie ich ein Auto wusch😑! pictures in energie: I sit in a energie from a dirty jung wife,she read my thougts!!! Death and devil from her for us to God, ok!? Ahhh… 3 crosses means you can write-and 6?
    Love from me too for YOU😌 Don’t be bad, my life is near me! Tschau

  • tina says:

    Sorry 3 crosses means you can not write!!! (near me)

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