Dwayne Johnson Rock-ing the Ukulele

If You Don’t Love Dwayne Johnson Playing the Ukulele, You’re Dead Inside

The ukulele is a fantastic instrument that is full of history and culture, has a mass pop culture appeal, and just downright fun to play. Just ask Dwayne Johnson, popularly known as “The Rock.”

Many uke enthusiasts agree that recent interest sparked in 2006 when Hawaiian-born ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro’s YouTube video hit the Internet and received almost 4 million hits. Sitting in Strawberry Fields in Central Park, New York City, Shimabukuro deftly plucked “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in true virtuoso fashion proving the ukulele could be pushed beyond gentle strumming.

Now major musicians, artists, and pop culture personalities all seem to play the ukulele in one way or another — whether for fun or as a serious musical tool. Even ukulele manufacturers and music store owners have noticed an increase in sales.


The word ukulele means “jumping flea” in Hawaiian, which described a skilled player’s nimble finger movements along the fret board.


Heritage

One of the world’s biggest movie stars — as well as all around cultural personalities — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is also a ukulele player (and guitar player). And a darn good one. Johnson comes from a powerful Polynesian heritage. He is part Samoan (his mother is Samoan), speaks Samoan, has traditional Samoan tattoos, and he lived part of his childhood in Hawaii and New Zealand.

In an interview with The Times in New Zealand, Johnson has called his heritage “a culture that I’m very proud of and that has been responsible for teaching me defining values throughout the years.”

 

Uke’ing on Set

Johnson’s public breakout moment as a ukulele player came during the 2012 film Journey 2: The Mysterious Island during a scene in which he plays a ukulele and sings the Louis Armstrong song, “What a Wonderful World.” To watch a video of the movie scene click here: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson with Michael Caine in a scene from the movie “Journey 2.”

Journey 2 director Brad Peyton said in a 2012 interview about the film that the movie’s ukulele scene was in fact Johnson’s idea. “It was Dwayne saying, ‘You know, I love playing guitar, I love ukulele, I wonder if we could do that?’ I was already looking for a scene where we could bond the characters and so I thought, ‘This is great,’” Peyton told ThatShelf.com. “And what’s interesting about that scene is that it’s almost the perfect analogy for this type of family film or adventure film. You get this totally disarming scene playing into the charisma of a movie star where it’s this little tiny guitar and a really big guy.”

The Rock playing ukulele during a 2012 movie press tour.

In another interview while promoting the film that year, Johnson said, “I grew up in a musical family. In Polynesian culture, people love to play ukulele, love to sing and dance. It was my idea to sing and to play ukulele in the movie.”

In a 2012 Facebook post, Johnson offered a picture of himself jamming the uke, stating, “Playin’ ukulele & singin’ “What a Wonderful World” to Asian press. I sing in the film & soundtrack. Grammy nod playa’.”


To watch The Rock’s mama rock the ukulele while he sings with her on Mother’s Day 2020, click here.


Learn to play “What a Wonderful World”

Here is a simplified adaptation of the song “What a Wonderful World,” for the ukulele.

Download this What a Wonderful World Uke Chart


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Jason Emerson is the managing editor for Making Music magazine. A career journalist, Jason has worked as a reporter, editor, photographer, designer, and publisher in multiple forms of journalism, including newspaper, newsletter, website, and magazine. In his spare time, Jason is a historian who writes articles and books about Abraham Lincoln and his family.

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