April 17, 2011

WHAT'S THE POLYNESIAN FOR FIFTY-CENTS?:

Ukulele Crazy (BEN SISARIO, 4/17/11, NY Times)

LIKE everybody else, Eddie Vedder was shocked by what the ukulele could do.

It was the late 1990s and Mr. Vedder was in Hawaii, decompressing after a tour with his band, Pearl Jam, when one of those modest, four-stringed instruments caught his eye in an out-of-the-way drugstore. He bought it, sat down on a nearby case of beer, and picked out a few melodies. It felt good.

“And then a couple of tourists came by and threw 50 cents in the ukulele case,” he said. “And I thought, ‘Wow, there’s something going on here.’ ”

Mr. Vedder’s new solo album, “Ukulele Songs” (Monkeywrench), will be released May 31. (“Truth in advertising,” he says of the title.) But in the years since his first beer-case serenade, the ukulele’s fortunes have changed. Not long ago it was an endangered species, usually encountered as cheap exotica or a comic prop. Now it permeates the culture to an extent that it hasn’t in more than half a century, turning up in Top 10 pop songs and fashionable indie-rock bands, in television commercials by the hundred and YouTube videos by the thousand. There definitely is something going on here.



Posted by at April 17, 2011 6:31 AM
  

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