Yesterday – it being International Women’s Day – I was musing on how gender balanced the ukulele world is (compare the average ukulele festival to scenes from NAMM). I like to have a healthy mix on the site and writing about the ukulele makes it very easy.
But it goes beyond gender. The ukulele scene is generally inclusive and has long been home people who are not fitters-in. It’s one of my favourite aspects of the scene. And it got me thinking of Tiny Tim.
The uke has always been an outsider instrument. It was built by immigrants and adopted by Hawaiians quickly being elbowed out of their own country. Ever since it’s been taken up by the misunderstood, the misshapen and the mentally other. And Tiny Tim is the embodiment of all those things. Best of all, he was happy to be that way. It never seemed like he was putting on an act but just gleefully being himself. It’s a point Penn Jillette makes in this video:
What I really love most about Tiny Tim is the complete lack of irony and the complete lack of cynicism in Tiny Tim.
Whether you’re seven hundred pounds, buck-toothed, slightly deranged or all of the above, Tiny Tim means you’ll never be the weirdest person to pick up a uke. And that’s the way it should stay. No matter how many skinny, straight-toothed popstars pick it up.
Tiny Tim should be in the Ukulele Hall of Fame because he is the ultimate representation of one concept: the ukulele will always welcome freaks, weirdos, outcasts and outsiders.