This weeks ukulele video lesson will feature Up On The Roof. Up on the Roof was written by Gerry Coffin and Carole King. The song was released by The Drifters in 1962 and became one of their biggest songs, reaching #5 on the US pop singles chart. It also reached #4 on the US R&B singles chart. It has been widely praised for both its musical and lyrical construction.
Up on the Roof has a light and airy feel to it, suitable for its lyrical content. The song is in the key of F major and utilizes the classic F, Dm, Bb, and C7 progression very effectively. In the performance by The Drifters, this song benefits from their excellent vocal abilities, which create a lush feeling that gives the song a very relaxing and mellow quality.
While this song is vocally complex, it is instrumentally fairly simple and it should be entirely suitable for a beginning/intermediate ukulele player to hone their skills. Subsequent recordings of the song are more or less complex, depending upon the artist and the version, but the original version is fairly straightforward.
The basic tempo of the song doesn’t change significantly through the runtime, with the chord changes and melody pulling the song forward and giving it its sense of movement. The song has a shuffle beat keeping the rhythm going, which can provide some interesting phrasing options for the ukulele player. This beat can be, of course, accomplished by having a skillful percussionist provide the backbeat or, conversely, it can be accomplished by using a combination of up strokes and down strokes across the strings, emphasizing the beat as required to bring out its original flavor.
Up on the Roof is a very influential song, being named 114 on the list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in Rolling Stone and being covered many times in the year since it was recorded by The Drifters.
The song was rerecorded by Carole King in 1970. The song appears on her 1970 album “Writer”. James Taylor, a well-known solo artist, played guitar on this particular version of the song. He would go on to cover the song himself, releasing it in 1979. In the UK, the song was covered by Julie Grant and Kenny Lynch, who managed to reach a higher position on the UK charts than did the original recording by The Drifters.
Up on the Roof has remained popular over the decades since it was originally recorded, being covered by artists ranging from Bruce Springsteen to The Muppets. There have also been reggae versions of the song recorded, disco versions, and plenty of other versions where artists reinterpreted the song according to their own style and preferences.
The lyrics of the song reference going up on the roof of an apartment building to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, something that had become popular with urban dwellers at the time it was released. The song has been praised for its narrative structure, taking the rather mundane story of somebody walking up flights of stairs to get to the roof of their building and turning it into something nostalgic, readily identifiable and very telling of the time in which it was recorded.
Because of the many different versions of the song, it is possible for a ukulele student to learn the song and use it as a means to experiment with different styles of music by simply choosing a version recorded by an artist who represents the style in which they are interested in. For those who prefer the purest version, The Drifters recorded the definitive version of the song. For those who want something a bit different, the Bruce Springsteen version or any of the many others should provide interesting material to experiment with.Return to Home Page
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