Famous Blue Raincoat (ukulele cover)

Almost three months ago, I walked into a music store and bought a ukulele. I did­n’t even know the frets on the ukulele (or gui­tar, for that mat­ter) were raised; I thought they were just lines paint­ed on the neck used as guide­lines for fin­ger posi­tions. Ever since, it’s filled a void in me. A void I did­n’t even know exist­ed until I found myself feel­ing emp­ty when I did­n’t get a chance to play.

Famous Blue Raincoat is one of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs. I wish I could write let­ters like this.

I haven’t quite fig­ured out what kind of style or genre I want to apply to the ukulele, but I think my singing abil­i­ty (or lack there­of) will lim­it me to the soft Sam Beam folk sound unless I start­ed tak­ing singing lessons. Borrowed in my inter­pre­ta­tion is a vari­a­tion of the pick­ing pat­tern Cohen uses in a lot of his ear­li­er songs, such as Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye, adapt­ed for the sopra­no ukulele.

While my brain picks out the mis­takes and details I need to work on when I see myself play, I try to keep in mind the words of my Tai Chi teacher, “We’re nev­er as bad as we fear nor as good as we would like”. I don’t think I’ll ever be sat­is­fied with my musi­cal abil­i­ty unless I could com­mit a lot more time to it. Unfortunately, that would mean less time for anoth­er hob­by, so I have to accept that this will prob­a­bly be close to the lim­it of my abil­i­ty. Hopefully, I’ll be able to clean things up in anoth­er few years. Patience will come from learn­ing to be sat­is­fied from the act of play­ing itself, and not the mas­tery of it. For now, this’ll serve as record of my progress.


  1. Love this song too, and your ver­sion is also love­ly. I used to lie on my bel­ly on the car­pet as a kid and sing along to the songs of Leonard Cohen sung by Jennifer Warnes and this brings back sweet mem­o­ries.

    • I know what you mean, as I have the same asso­ci­a­tion with music and mem­o­ry. I dis­cov­ered this song only a few years ago, so I sus­pect in many years I’ll also look back fond­ly as you do and think of this time in my life.

  2. OMIGOD! he’s Doing it!! already! And very well! I’m real­ly shocked: here you said you were strug­gling with chords and such, and you’re already fin­ger­pick­ing and remem­ber­ing all the chords, and singing in tune and remem­ber­ing all the lyrics. HAA! Excellent.

    This is a song I think pret­ty much any­one who hears it and even knows rudi­ments of play­ing a gui­tar imme­di­ate­ly feels com­pelled to play. I’ve nev­er heard it on ukelele — it’s very rain­drop­py. Nice work. Would love to play it with you some­day.

    • You flat­ter me, but thanks any­way. :)

      It’s fun­ny when you men­tion all these things that are involved when play­ing, because in my head I’m most­ly think­ing, “GET THE B‑MINOR CHORD CLEAN” cause it’s one of those fuck­ing barre chords. I’d say that 80% of the time I spend prac­tic­ing is just try­ing to get the b‑minor to ring nice­ly with­out buzzing.

      • Yeah bar chords are a bitch any instru­ment you put them on. 12string gui­tar? Oh yah. Fun.

      • Holy crap…I have a hard enough time with four strings, I nev­er even con­sid­ered how hard it’d be with 12!

      • Yeah, try get­ting the B‑Minor clean on a 12-string. Hey, it sounds a bit like a lute.
        Great progress, I must say. Keep it up!

  3. i found myself watch­ing the veins under your skin and your fin­gers del­i­cate­ly play­ing the notes, rather than watch­ing your mouth move from the words you remem­bered like most would do in search of a mis­take.
    very well played.

    • That’s inter­est­ing, I tend not to notice my veins, but now I prob­a­bly will.

  4. Wow — was just look­ing for the chords to play on my uke and found this. I love this song too and have child­hood mem­o­ries of Sunday after­noons with my fam­i­ly lis­ten­ing to Joan Baez & Jennifer Warnes. I too have filled a void with my new Aria ukulele and have been writ­ing my own songs. If you are in Melbourne you should come along to open mike at Melbourne Ukulele Kolective once a month. I would also love to spend more time just playing…I do when I can. Thanks for shar­ing you music.

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