27 sad ukulele songs

27 Sad Ukulele Songs: 27 Uke Classics

27 Sad Ukulele Songs: 27 Uke Classics

Hey there, fellow music lovers! TBone here, the heart and soul behind Level Tunes.

With over 20 years of spinning decks and sharing tunes, I’ve developed a deep love for all things music.

Today, I want to share something a little different but close to my heart – a list of 27 sad ukulele songs.

There’s something about the melancholy melodies plucked on a ukulele that hits right in the feels, and as a die-hard fan of this genre, I believe these songs deserve a spotlight.

I’ve handpicked each track for its ability to convey deep emotions and stories, a testament to my two decades in the music industry.

Whether you’re a fellow DJ, a music enthusiast, or simply in need of a good soul-stir, this list is crafted just for you. Let’s dive into the tender, poignant world of ukulele music together.

Here are the sad ukulele songs that you can check out:

List Of Sad Ukulele Songs

Sad Ukulele songs in a list format:

1. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

This medley has touched hearts worldwide since its release on the album “Facing Future” in 1993 under the Mountain Apple Company label. Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, affectionately known as Iz, brings a soul-stirring rendition of two classic songs, blending them into a melancholy yet hopeful tune with his gentle ukulele strumming and hauntingly beautiful voice. The song gained immense popularity, not just for its musicality but for the emotion Iz infuses into every note. It’s a celebration of hope and beauty in the face of sorrow, making it a timeless piece. I chose this song because it showcases the ukulele’s power to convey deep emotions, turning a simple string instrument into a vehicle for profound expression. Iz’s performance is a testament to his incredible talent and the universal appeal of the ukulele.

2. “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Twenty One Pilots

This cover of the Elvis Presley classic was released as a bonus track on their 2013 album, “Vessel,” under Fueled by Ramen. Twenty One Pilots brings a unique twist to this timeless love song, with Tyler Joseph’s tender vocals accompanied by a simple, yet evocative ukulele arrangement. The duo’s version stands out for its emotional depth, stripping back the original’s grandeur to focus on the song’s heartfelt core. I chose this rendition because it highlights the ukulele’s versatility and the band’s ability to inject new life into a well-known track. The minimalist approach underscores the song’s inherent sadness and longing, making it a standout ukulele cover.

3. “Riptide” by Vance Joy

Released in 2013 on the album “Dream Your Life Away” under Atlantic Records, “Riptide” quickly became an indie anthem. Vance Joy’s storytelling, combined with his distinctive voice and the ukulele’s rhythmic strumming, captures a mix of nostalgia, love, and fear of loss. The song’s catchy melody belies its deeper, sadder themes, including missed connections and personal insecurities. I chose “Riptide” for its ability to blend catchy pop sensibilities with a layer of melancholy, showcasing how the ukulele can be both upbeat and deeply emotional. The song’s success is a tribute to Vance Joy’s songwriting and the emotional resonance of the ukulele.

4. “Sea of Love” by The Honey Trees

The Honey Trees’ cover of “Sea of Love,” originally by Phil Phillips, is featured on their EP “Wake the Earth,” released in 2009. This version stands out for its hauntingly beautiful ukulele accompaniment, which, combined with Becky Filip’s ethereal vocals, brings a fresh, poignant feel to the classic. The song’s simple melody and heartfelt lyrics are elevated by the ukulele’s gentle strumming, creating an intimate atmosphere that draws listeners into a tender, emotional embrace. I chose this rendition for its ability to transport listeners to a serene, melancholic place, showcasing the ukulele’s power to enhance the emotional weight of a song. The Honey Trees’ interpretation reminds us of the timeless nature of love and longing, making it a perfect addition to this list.

5. “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Daniela Andrade

Daniela Andrade’s cover of Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” is a stunning example of how the ukulele can transform a song. Released on her YouTube channel in 2012, Andrade’s version strips the original down to its core, using only her voice and the ukulele to convey the song’s themes of devotion and the inevitability of death. Her delicate vocals and the ukulele’s soft plucking create a deeply personal and introspective atmosphere, making the listener feel as if they’re being confided in. I selected this cover for its simplicity and emotional clarity, showcasing the ukulele’s ability to bring a new dimension to contemporary songs. Andrade’s performance is a testament to the instrument’s versatility and its capacity to express the most profound of human emotions.

6. “Hallelujah” by Jake Shimabukuro

Jake Shimabukuro’s instrumental version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” featured on his 2011 album “Peace Love Ukulele” under Hitchhike Records, is nothing short of breathtaking. Shimabukuro, a virtuoso of the ukulele, transforms Cohen’s iconic song into a delicate, moving instrumental that speaks volumes without a single word. His mastery of the ukulele allows him to explore a wide range of emotions, from melancholy to a sense of hope and redemption. This rendition was chosen for its sheer musicality and the way it showcases the ukulele’s capacity for emotional depth and complexity. Shimabukuro’s performance is a brilliant example of how the ukulele can be the main protagonist in conveying the essence of a song, proving that instrumental music can be as emotionally compelling as lyrical compositions.

7. “The Moon Song” by Karen O

Featured in the film “Her” (2013) and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, “The Moon Song” performed by Karen O, is a hauntingly beautiful melody that perfectly captures the essence of intimacy and longing. The simplicity of the ukulele, combined with Karen O’s soft, emotive vocals, creates a sense of raw vulnerability and tender love. This song speaks to the heart of anyone who’s ever felt a deep, personal connection, whether near or far. I chose “The Moon Song” for its ability to use the ukulele not just as an instrument, but as a voice that echoes the nuances of human connection and solitude. Its gentle melody invites listeners into a moment of serene reflection, making it a standout piece in the world of ukulele music.

8. “Hey Soul Sister” by Train

Though not traditionally sad, “Hey Soul Sister” by Train, from their album “Save Me, San Francisco” (2009) under Columbia Records, has a bittersweet undertone that resonates with many. The ukulele-led track became an instant classic, known for its catchy melody and uplifting lyrics. Yet, beneath its joyful surface, there’s a layer of longing for connection and the celebration of finding love in unexpected places. I included “Hey Soul Sister” in this list because it showcases how the ukulele can bring a light, almost whimsical quality to a song, while still touching on themes of love and yearning. The ukulele’s bright sound contrasts with the deeper emotional undercurrents, creating a multifaceted listening experience.

9. “Losing My Religion” by Amber Rubarth

Amber Rubarth’s rendition of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” for the film “American Folk” strips the song down to its emotional core, using only her voice and the ukulele. This minimalist approach highlights the song’s themes of doubt, loss, and the search for meaning, making it resonate on a deeply personal level. Rubarth’s gentle strumming and heartfelt vocals bring a new vulnerability to the track, transforming it into a poignant reflection on faith and the human condition. I selected this cover for its stark beauty and the way it exemplifies the ukulele’s ability to reinvent and deepen the impact of a well-known song. It’s a testament to the instrument’s power to convey profound emotions in the simplest of arrangements.

10. “Vincent” by James Blake

James Blake’s rendition of Don McLean’s “Vincent,” released as a single in 2017, transforms the classic tribute to Vincent van Gogh into a hauntingly beautiful ukulele ballad. Blake’s minimalist approach, focusing on the ukulele and his distinctive, emotive vocals, brings a new depth to the song’s exploration of the artist’s troubled life and genius. This version stands out for its intimacy and the poignant way it captures the beauty and sadness of McLean’s lyrics, making it a profound listening experience. I chose “Vincent” because it demonstrates the ukulele’s ability to convey complex emotional narratives, showcasing the instrument’s capacity to be both delicate and powerful.

11. “All I Want” by Kodaline

Kodaline’s “All I Want,” from their 2012 EP of the same name, is not traditionally associated with the ukulele, but acoustic covers of this song have often featured the instrument, emphasizing its heartfelt plea for love and understanding. The song’s raw emotion and sweeping melody line lend themselves beautifully to the ukulele, which can add a layer of simplicity and sincerity. “All I Want” is chosen for this list because it exemplifies how the ukulele can strip a song down to its emotional core, allowing the lyrics and melody to resonate more deeply with listeners. It’s a testament to the instrument’s ability to enhance the emotional impact of a song, making it feel more intimate and personal.

12. “Wish You Were Here” by Eddie Vedder

Eddie Vedder’s ukulele cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” brings a new dimension to this classic rock anthem. Featured on his 2011 album “Ukulele Songs,” Vedder’s version is both a tribute and a deeply personal interpretation, with the ukulele adding a poignant simplicity to the song’s themes of absence and longing. Vedder’s gravelly voice, accompanied by the gentle strumming of the ukulele, creates an atmosphere of introspection and nostalgia. This song was selected for its ability to showcase the ukulele as an instrument capable of bridging genres and eras, bringing a timeless quality to contemporary music. Vedder’s performance is a reminder of the ukulele’s versatility and its power to convey complex emotions in a stripped-down format.

13. “Hurt” by Eddie Vedder

Eddie Vedder’s ukulele rendition of “Hurt,” a song originally by Nine Inch Nails and famously covered by Johnny Cash, appears on his album “Ukulele Songs” (2011). Vedder’s version brings a unique rawness and vulnerability to this powerful song about pain, regret, and the search for redemption. The sparse ukulele arrangement strips the song down to its emotional core, allowing Vedder’s voice to carry the weight of the lyrics in a profoundly personal manner. This choice illustrates the ukulele’s capacity to transform a song across different genres and emotional landscapes, highlighting its versatility as an instrument of deep emotional expression.

14. “Blue Ain’t Your Color” by Keith Urban

While Keith Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color” is not traditionally a ukulele song, its bluesy, soulful vibe has been adapted by ukulele players to capture its essence in a more intimate setting. Originally released on Urban’s 2016 album “Ripcord,” the song talks about noticing someone’s loneliness and offering solace. The ukulele versions often highlight the song’s melancholic yet hopeful message, proving that the instrument can carry the depth of blues and country-infused tracks. This adaptation showcases the ukulele’s ability to cross genre boundaries and connect with listeners on a personal level, making it a versatile tool for storytelling.

15. “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman

“Fast Car,” a classic from Tracy Chapman released in 1988, is a poignant narrative of hope, dreams, and the harsh realities of life. While Chapman’s original is not centered around the ukulele, numerous ukulele covers have brought a new dimension to this beloved song. The simplicity of the ukulele accompaniment allows the powerful lyrics and melody to stand in the forefront, offering a fresh perspective on the timeless themes of escape and desire for a better life. This selection highlights how the ukulele can serve as a bridge, connecting the listener to the song’s emotional journey through its gentle, unassuming sound.

16. “Let Her Go” by Passenger

“Let Her Go” by Passenger, from the 2012 album “All the Little Lights,” is a melancholic meditation on the realization of love’s value only after it’s gone. The song’s introspective lyrics and memorable melody line have made it a favorite for ukulele players, who often bring a softer, more reflective quality to the track. The ukulele’s light strumming complements the song’s theme of loss and regret, offering a delicate backdrop to the storytelling. This choice underscores the instrument’s ability to amplify the emotional impact of a song, making the narrative even more poignant and heart-touching.

17. “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” is an deeply personal song about the loss of his son. While originally performed on guitar, ukulele versions of this song capture its tender, sorrowful essence in a new light. The ukulele’s gentle tones can bring a sense of intimacy and vulnerability to the song, highlighting its emotional depth and Clapton’s raw, heartfelt lyrics. This adaptation showcases the ukulele’s capacity to handle complex themes of grief and longing, providing a soothing, reflective space for listeners to connect with the song’s message.

18. “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Walk off the Earth

The innovative cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Walk off the Earth, released in 2012, went viral for its creative use of a single guitar by five band members. However, their ukulele version brings a different, more intimate flavor to this tale of lost love and reflection. The plucky sounds of the ukulele add a layer of poignancy to the song’s themes of separation and memory, highlighting the instrument’s capacity to evoke a sense of nostalgia and bittersweet longing. This rendition exemplifies how the ukulele can transform a pop hit into a deeply emotional acoustic experience, proving the instrument’s versatility and emotional range.

19. “Lava” by Kuana Torres Kahele, Napua Greig, and James Ford Murphy

Featured in the Pixar short film of the same name, “Lava” is a heartwarming ukulele ballad that tells the story of a lonely volcano in search of love. Released in 2014, this song captures the spirit of Hawaiian music and the ukulele’s roots, with its gentle melodies and harmonious vocals painting a picture of longing and eventual fulfillment. The choice of “Lava” for this list highlights the ukulele’s ability to convey stories and emotions in a simple yet powerful manner, embodying the joy, sadness, and hope of the narrative. It’s a testament to the ukulele’s role in storytelling and its effectiveness in evoking emotional responses from audiences of all ages.

20. “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5

While “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5, from their 2002 album “Songs About Jane,” might not originally feature the ukulele, acoustic covers have often incorporated the instrument to bring a fresh, laid-back vibe to this soulful track. The ukulele’s light, airy strumming complements the song’s smooth, jazzy feel, adding a layer of relaxed, easy-going emotion that’s perfect for lazy Sunday mornings. This adaptation showcases the ukulele’s ability to adapt to and enhance different musical styles, from pop and rock to jazz, illustrating its versatility and the unique warmth it can bring to contemporary music.

21. “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” from his 2008 album “We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.,” is a quintessential ukulele song known for its upbeat melody and positive vibes. However, beneath its cheerful exterior lies a message of love, vulnerability, and the courage to open one’s heart. The ukulele’s bright, cheerful strumming perfectly captures the song’s essence, making it an anthem for those willing to embrace love and life’s possibilities. “I’m Yours” was chosen for its embodiment of the ukulele’s capacity to convey joy and optimism, demonstrating the instrument’s power to uplift and inspire.

22. “No Woman, No Cry” by Boney M.

Though originally by Bob Marley & The Wailers, Boney M.’s version of “No Woman, No Cry” brings a unique flavor to this reggae classic, and ukulele covers further transform its vibe, emphasizing the song’s themes of hope, reminiscence, and consolation. The ukulele lends a soft, melodic quality to the track, allowing the poignant lyrics and comforting message to resonate deeply with listeners. This song exemplifies the ukulele’s ability to cross cultural and musical boundaries, showcasing its role in conveying messages of peace, love, and solidarity across genres.

23. “Better Together” by Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson’s “Better Together,” from his 2005 album “In Between Dreams,” is a warm, soothing track that epitomizes the feel-good vibe of ukulele music. Johnson’s smooth vocals and the gentle ukulele chords create a comforting atmosphere that speaks to the simplicity and beauty of companionship and love. This song was selected for its embodiment of the ukulele’s ability to convey happiness and contentment, proving that sometimes, the simplest messages of love and togetherness are the most powerful. The ukulele, in this case, acts not just as an instrument, but as a companion, adding depth and warmth to Johnson’s heartfelt lyrics.

24. “Over The Rainbow” by Judy Garland

Although “Over The Rainbow,” originally sung by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz,” is not typically associated with the ukulele, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version has certainly cemented its place as a ukulele classic. This entry, however, acknowledges the song’s origins and its timeless message of hope and dreams beyond the troubles of the current world. Ukulele renditions maintain the song’s magical quality, using the instrument’s light, airy sound to lift the melody and lyrics into a space of gentle optimism. The song’s inclusion here highlights the ukulele’s ability to transcend time and genre, bringing a fresh, hopeful perspective to Garland’s iconic performance.

25. “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran’s “The A Team,” from his 2011 album “+,” is a haunting narrative of life on the streets, marked by its melancholic melody and poignant lyrics. While originally played on acoustic guitar, ukulele covers of this song bring a new layer of intimacy and vulnerability to its storytelling. The simplicity of the ukulele accompaniment allows Sheeran’s powerful lyrics to stand at the forefront, creating a more personal connection with the listener. This song exemplifies the ukulele’s ability to convey deep, complex stories of human experience, showcasing the instrument’s capacity for empathy and emotional resonance.

26. “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers

The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey,” from their 2012 self-titled debut album, is an indie folk anthem that captures the spirit of longing and belonging. Its catchy chorus and stomp-and-clap rhythm have made it a favorite among ukulele players, who often bring a playful, yet earnest quality to the song. The ukulele’s light strumming complements the song’s rustic, heartfelt vibe, highlighting its themes of love and hope. “Ho Hey” was chosen for its ability to showcase the ukulele’s adaptability to different musical styles and its power to foster a sense of community and connection through music.

27. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” from his 1963 album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” is a classic folk song that speaks to the acceptance of a relationship’s end with a mixture of resignation and defiance. Ukulele covers of this song often highlight its bitter-sweetness, with the instrument’s plucky sound adding a layer of melancholic introspection. This selection showcases the ukulele’s ability to convey the nuanced emotions of leaving and moving on, demonstrating the instrument’s range in expressing both the sadness of loss and the liberation of letting go.

Fun Facts: Sad Ukulele Songs

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

  • Unexpected Recording Session: Israel Kamakawiwo’ole famously recorded this medley in a spur-of-the-moment session at 3 a.m. in a completely empty studio. The engineer, Milan Bertosa, was called out of bed to record Iz, who performed the song in just one take.
  • Global Impact: This version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” has been used in numerous films, television shows, and commercials worldwide, cementing its status as a global anthem of hope and happiness.

“Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Twenty One Pilots

  • Ukulele for a Cause: Twenty One Pilots’ rendition of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” was part of a compilation album titled “Holding on to You” to support the non-profit organization To Write Love on Her Arms, which aims to present hope for people struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury, and thoughts of suicide.
  • Viral Video: Their cover gained significant attention on YouTube, showcasing the power of social media in reviving classic songs through modern interpretations.

“Riptide” by Vance Joy

  • Inspiration from a Dream: Vance Joy has mentioned that the line “I was scared of dentists and the dark” was inspired by a childhood fear, showcasing how personal experiences and fears can lead to the creation of universally relatable music.
  • A Ukulele Icon: “Riptide” became an anthem for ukulele players worldwide, often cited as one of the most popular songs for beginners to learn on the ukulele due to its catchy melody and simple chord progression.

“The Moon Song” by Karen O

  • Oscar Nomination: “The Moon Song” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2014. Karen O performed the song live at the Oscars, bringing the ukulele’s gentle charm to the grand stage of the Academy Awards.
  • Collaboration with Spike Jonze: Karen O wrote “The Moon Song” for the movie “Her,” directed by Spike Jonze, marking another collaboration between the artist and director. They had previously worked together on the soundtrack for “Where the Wild Things Are.”

“Lava” by Kuana Torres Kahele, Napua Greig, and James Ford Murphy

  • Inspired by a Real Volcano: The song “Lava” was inspired by the love story of two real-life volcanoes in Hawaii, according to the director of the Pixar short, James Ford Murphy. He was moved by the beauty and isolation of the Hawaiian volcanoes, which led to the creation of this touching love story.
  • From Short Film to Ukulele Classic: Though originally created for a Pixar short film, “Lava” has become a beloved song in the ukulele community for its simple, sweet melody and heartwarming lyrics, often performed by ukulele players of all skill levels around the world.

“I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz

  • Record-Breaking Run: “I’m Yours” holds the record for the most weeks spent on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for 76 weeks. The song’s sunny vibe and catchy melody captured the hearts of listeners worldwide, making it an enduring hit.
  • Global Influence: The song’s universal message of love and positivity led to it being covered in various languages and styles, showcasing its wide appeal and the global reach of the ukulele.

We’ve journeyed through the heartstrings of the ukulele, exploring songs that bring joy, sorrow, and everything in between. This versatile instrument has the power to convey the deepest of human emotions, proving that great things truly do come in small packages. Let’s keep strumming along to the rhythm of life.

Thanks for reading.


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