One question looms large above all others in the world of music: who invented the banjolele? Some credit the century-old instrument’s creation to the Keech brothers, Alvin and Kelvin. Others assert California’s own John “J.A.” Bolander as the true father of the plucky hybrid. We may never know who truly deserves credit for first melding banjo with ukulele. But whoever its true mastermind, we can forever enjoy the diminutive chordophone’s delightful harmonies. And so do we today, as the banjolele has devoted its energies to the delivery of a particularly jovial cover.
See, few instruments sound quite as pleasant as does the banjolele. Likewise, few bands write songs quite as pleasant as do They Might Be Giants. And though the Brooklyn-born alt rock band doesn’t traditionally utilize the banj’uke in its compositions, they make a perfect match. The proof comes via the below banjolele cover of TMBG’s arguably most beloved number, “Birdhouse in Your Soul.”
Performed by one Thomas Benjamin Wild, Esq., this new version of the 1989 tune is a verified day-brightener. (We first saw the video over at Laughing Squid.) The upbeat vibe of the banjolele, not to mention Wild’s charming, lilting vocals, more than do justice to “Birdhouse.” And that’s hardly the only modern classic with which Wild has visited his banjolele treatment.
Others include hits like Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” and Bonnie Tyler’s endlessly karaoke-able “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” He also appears to be handy with the traditional ukulele, and has covered the likes of REM’s “The Great Beyond.” Wild also composes original songs—including parodies—which you can find at his YouTube channel.
All that said, we hold a special place in our hearts for TMBG; they are truly one of the loveliest musical groups of the past few decades. And if banjolele enthusiasm alone brought you here and you’re not well-versed in their music, we recommend a deep dive. You may just come out the other side feeling a bit brighter.