If you’re familiar with Greg Hawkes, it’s probably from his work with the Cars, one of the most popular pop bands of the 80s. While members of the Cars do continue to record and tour under various guises now and then, Hawkes' has also revealed to be a fan of the ukulele. His ukulele work started in 2001 and continues to this day.
In 2008, he released what is probably his best-known work featuring the ukulele on Solid Air Records. The Beatles Uke saw Hawkes doing ukulele renditions of the work of some of the most beloved pop musicians in history. Of course, this was not a one-way endeavor. The Beatles were very influential on Hawkes, so doing a cover album of their songs was obviously not a stretch for him. Doing it on the ukulele, however, gave an entirely new sound to classic such as Eleanor Rigby.
Greg Hawkes is well known as a multi-instrumentalist. His solo work oftentimes sees him performing guitar, keyboards and other instruments, oftentimes using multi-tracking to allow himself to create an entire band out of his own performances on various instruments. On The Beatles Uke album, not only did he perform 15 different songs by the Beatles, he performed them using the same multi-tracking techniques that he’s utilized on other solo work. The effect is really quite startling.
The multi-tracking allows Hawkes to utilize different voices of ukuleles, including bass ukuleles, soprano ukuleles and so forth. The result that he was looking for was the effect of an entire ukulele orchestra playing these Beatles classics. On his Facebook page, he currently has a video running of him playing Eleanor Rigby. He plays all of the instruments on the track and, in fact, the video is a very simple affair, only featuring him playing his ukulele or, rather, his many different ukuleles.
Eleanor Rigby comes off sounding lush, complex and quite beautiful on the ukulele. The various voices of the instruments allow the sound enough depth to hold true to its roots, the original being a very complex and very aurally satisfying track from one of the – and quite possibly the – most well-known groups of pop music composers in history.
The Greg Hawkes Ukulele Trio is another project that Hawkes has been working with. Hawkes originally got interested in the ukulele as an instrument do to the fact that there is something of a scene for it in Boston, near where he lives. The trio he formed around the instrument advertises itself as bringing a “unique passion” to the instrument.
Hawkes continues to be very active with a multitude of different musical projects, but the ukulele project is, perhaps, the one that people may have least expected from this man, best known as a keyboardist. The Beatles Uke album is a good one for those who want to hear the ukulele used to render nontraditional types of music and to hear it played in a way that shows off its full range and the lush sound of which it is capable, particularly in ensembles.Return to Ukulele Musicians from Greg Hawkes