There are a lot of people who play from books. The jam group to which I belong does this, and nearly all of the songs we have been doing regularly for a couple of years with only three chords? Most of the players can't do without the piece in front of them.
It's a great safety mechanism. If you are playing and you have the chords and words right there in front of you, it's harder to go blank on the material.
Not impossible to get lost, but it's a pretty good touchstone to have the material right there in front of you. Cheap insurance. I saw a broadcast of Springsteen losing the lyrics on a song. He just stopped, grinned, and said, "You know, I knew the lyrics to this song when I started."
I have heard enough professional singers flub lines in a song they wrote who just shook their heads, so I don't feel so bad if I sometimes skip a verse.
I love watching TV shows or movies wherein a songwriter scribbles down the last line of a lyric, then looks up at a watcher and says, "Hey, listen to this." then proceeds to bang out a perfect rendition of the song from memory, never missing a note or a word. Not in my world. It takes me as long to learn one I wrote as one somebody else wrote ...
But, for me, memorizing the piece is better. You can get into the music, you can make eye contact with anybody who might be listening, and even if you aren't relaxed, you tend to look as if you are.
You know the old Hollywood line, When you can fake sincerity, then you got something ...
Of course, the major orchestras around the world do just fine with music in front of them, and they use sheets even if they know it by heart.
Um. Anyway, this brings us to the current work-in-progress. Most of these, I still can't play comfortably from memory on the uke, but I'm getting there. They are simple blues or rock chord progressions, and songs I mostly know, which makes it easier.
Those with vocals I'll sing
1. A Summer Song, Chad & Jeremy
2. Cakewalk into Town, Taj Majal
3. Dorothy, McKinley
4. Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen
5. Hey, Jude, Paul McCartney
6. Hotel California, Eagles (Henley, Fry & Felder)
7. Let It Be, McCartney
8. Political Science, Randy Newman
9. Woke Up Dead Blues, Yours Truly
10. Yesterday, McCartney.
11. Blackbird, McCartney
Yes, four of them are Beatles songs, and there you go.
And the instrumentals:
1. Something in the Way She Moves, George Harrison
2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Harrison
3. Quigley Down Under, Basil Poledouris
4. Ashokan Farewell, Jay Ungar
5. Theme from Titanic (My Heart Will Go On), James Horner, Will Jennings.
Most of the instrumentals are arrangements I got from YouTube. Ashokan Farewell is El McMeen's version, from his dropped-D book, and restricted to four strings; Quigley is my own arrangement, very simple, but I couldn't find it anywhere else and had to do it.
Once I get these down, I'll start doing vids or MP3s of them and see if any sound good enough to make public.