Last Christmas I decided I wanted to learn how to play the ukelele. My husband got me one with a tuner, some self-teaching books, and music books and just recently now I have started to actually give it a go. I know what you are thinking: “What the heck does that have to do with Disney?" Well, for that we must quit imagining we are in the Disney Parks and instead imagine we are somewhere else in American history. Let’s go back to the early 1900s where a young man named Cliff Edwards was making some money singing in local movie theatres and saloons. By 1917 he was living in Chicago making a living as a performer AND he had taken up the ukelele. He was affectionately nicknamed “Ukelele Ike”. He recorded classics such as “Singin in the Rain” and “It Had to be You” and starred in movies and vaudville.
This is not the happiest of stories, however, because not long after being cast as the voice of everyone’s favorite cricket, Jiminy, (who we all know as Pinnochio’s bestie the host for Magic Kingdoms’s Wishes Nighttime Spectacular fireworks show) a series of marriages and divorces left him alone. Ukelele Ike had his vices too and got caught up in drugs and alcohol. He never enjoyed the wealth he did early in his career again, but he could often be found wandering around Walt Disney Studios so that he would always be available to them for voiceovers. (And he would later be the voice of Jim Crow in Dumbo.) When he passed away in 1971 it came out that the Walt Disney company had been quietly paying for his medical bills and they paid for his burial expenses as well.
This short sad story isn’t meant to depress or sadden you, though. It’s to remind you that just like Walt Disney Studios took care of Cliff Edwards when they could and when he needed it, so must all dreamers stick together. Next time you hear “When You Wish Upon a Star” think of the boy who sang in movie theatres and made his way up to singing in movies… and think of just how life can rise you up it can bring you down. Just as dreams come true they can be taken away so embrace the moment and remember that “the very things that held you down are gonna carry you up”.
This article was written by Melissa and was first posted on The Disney Moms Blog.