Beatles, Ukulele-Style What could be better than 12 hours of nonstop Beatles music? How about 12 hours of nonstop Beatles music played on the ukulele? Roger Greenawalt, the man who plays the Beatles' works the way he claims they were meant to be played, ukulele-style, shows off the tunes.
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Beatles, Ukulele-Style

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Beatles, Ukulele-Style

Beatles, Ukulele-Style

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ROBERT SMITH, host:

The Beatles had their phases. There was the rock and roll era:

(Soundbite of song, "She Loves You")

THE BEATLES (Band): (Singing) She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah�

SMITH: The psychedelic years:

(Soundbite of song, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds")

THE BEATLES: (Singing) Lucy in the sky with diamonds�

SMITH: The orchestral dabbling:

(Soundbite of music)

SMITH: Perhaps if they had stayed together, they would have progressed to the peak of musical expression - to the ukulele.

(Soundbite of music)

SMITH: Rocking the Fab Four string uke is Roger Greenawalt. He's a record producer and organizer of a yearly ukulele stunt in New York City. Next weekend, they will attempt to play every Beatles song - all 185; that's "A Day in the Life" to "Your Mother Should Know" - all on the ukulele.

So, Roger, how long's this going to take?

Mr. ROGER GREENAWALT (Record Producer): About 12 hours - noon to midnight.

SMITH: So, there's a school of thought that says if John, Paul, George and Ringo had wanted their songs to be played on the uke, they wouldn't have written so many notes.

Mr. GREENAWALT: Well, the Beatles began in John Lennon's mind, and his first musical instrument was ukulele - his mom played it. And when he met McCartney -and they were just teenage boys - McCartney had to teach him guitar chords. He only knew ukulele chords. Hence, Lennon's stuff really is easy to play on ukulele. There's only one Beatles song that's impossible to do, and that's "Revolution 9," because it's not really musical instruments; it's just tay collage(ph).

SMITH: Is there one song that is the hardest - other than "Revolution 9" - the hardest Beatles song to play on the ukulele that all your musicians dread for this festival?

Mr. GREENAWALT: The ones that don't go over that well are simple rock and roll ones that are just three chords. The ones that are just like�

(Singing) Flew in to Miami Beach BOAC�

You know, those songs aren't so great on ukulele because they really sort of need a rock band.

SMITH: So, the thing about the ukulele is there's a lot of people who love it in private. Maybe they're a little embarrassed. But this festival brings them out of the woodwork and they all assemble to profess their love for the ukulele, and some great singers too.

In fact, we have Fiona Silver here, who will be singing next weekend at the ukulele festival. Hey, Fiona.

Ms. FIONA SILVER (Singer): Hello.

SMITH: You're going to be doing which song?

Ms. SILVER: I'm going to be performing "Run for Your Life."

SMITH: Which is interesting. Originally sung by, of course, John Lennon.

Ms. SILVER: Right.

Mr. GREENAWALT: Yeah, it's his worst song in my opinion.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SMITH: You needed someone to save it.

Mr. GREENAWALT: Well, it's more fun to do the horrible songs because we have a chance of improving them. You know, it's hard to do a song like "Hey Jude" and make it much better. But "Run for Your Life," no problem. It's by far his nastiest, most misogynistic lyric.

Ms. SILVER: I think it's a lovely song because it's raw.

SMITH: Well, let's hear it.

Mr. GREENAWALT: All right. Here we go. Ready? One�

(Soundbite of song, "Run for Your Life")

Ms. SILVER: (Singing) Well, I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man. You better keep your head, little girl, or you won't know where I am. You better run for your life if you can, little girl. Hide your head in the sand, little girl. Catch you with another man, that's the end, little girl.

SMITH: That was Fiona Silver and Roger Greenawalt playing a Beatles song. They will perform at the Beatles Complete on Ukulele Festival next weekend.

You describe yourself as - I want to look at this here because you're very specific about this - you're a performance philanthropist.

Mr. GREENAWALT: Right.

SMITH: Which means you are doing this for charity.

Mr. GREENAWALT: That's correct, yeah.

SMITH: Where's the money going?

Mr. GREENAWALT: We're donating the profits from the show to Yoko Ono this year.

SMITH: I did not know she was in trouble.

Mr. GREENAWALT: Well, no, she's not in trouble but she is a well-known philanthropist. I'll bet she's got an office that gives money away all day long, and she's going to know what to do with the dough.

So, last year, we did it as a benefit for Warren Buffett, who at the time was the richest man in the world. And he bought 17 ukuleles with that money and gave it to Girls, Inc., an afterschool program for at-risk inner city girls in Omaha, Nebraska, keeping them busy from two to seven in the afternoon.

SMITH: So, wait, are there any dangers to a festival like this? I mean, blisters on your fingers or your neighbors coming over and smashing your ukes?

Mr. GREENAWALT: You know, it's the same as when I have jams over at my studio -the world-famous Shabby Road in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And you have to watch out for a model playing tambourine. You can hear a tambourine over a symphony orchestra that can ruin the whole effect.

SMITH: By the time you hit the 11th, 12th hour, people will have been drinking, it will be around midnight.

Mr. GREENAWALT: Oh, I know.

SMITH: And so it can get a little crazy.

Mr. GREENAWALT: It might get a little messy near the end, and it might be a little bit my fault as a little messy, but we are going to soldier on and do our best.

SMITH: There you go. And then the whole band breaks up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GREENAWALT: And then we'll have a horrible breakup.

SMITH: Roger Greenawalt is one of the organizers of the Beatles Complete on Ukulele Festival. Fiona Silver will be singing at said festival. It gets underway next Sunday at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Thank you both for coming in.

Mr. GREENAWALT: Thank you, Robert.

Ms. SILVER: Thank you.

SMITH: And, of course, the last song in the festival will be�

Mr. GREENAWALT: "The End."

(Singing) And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.

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