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Pop Rewind: Bobby McFerrin “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”

There are few musicians on the planet with careers as unique and diverse as Bobby McFerrin. He is perhaps best known for his niche of layered vocalizing, composing and recording songs completely a capella, using his own voice for melody, harmonies and mimicking the various “instruments.”

Most people recognize the tune below, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” McFerrin’s single smash hit, which garnered three Grammys in 1988, including Song of the Year. But far from being a one-hit wonder, Bobby McFerrin has actually one ten Grammys, mostly in the Jazz Vocal Performance category. His signature style frequently appears in pop culture; you might recognize his voice doing The Cosby Show theme song in Season 4, and if you saw Pixar’s short animated film Knick Knack—yep, that’s McFerrin, vocalizing the entire soundtrack.

Besides his vocal work, McFerrin is also a noted orchestral conductor, frequently guest conducting some of the most pre-eminent orchestras in the world. He is also heavily involved with music education, volunteering his time as a guest instructor in public schools and holding the title of professor emeritus of music at Fullerton College in Fullerton, CA.

An interesting aside—in the early 1990s, a rumor began flying that the singer of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” had committed suicide. Obviously, rumors of his death have been greatly exaggerated.

You’re likely to recognize a couple of the faces in the music video below: actors Bill Irwin and Robin Williams. Incidentally, in case you were wondering, McFerrin does not speak with a Jamaican accent; that, too, is just part of the performance. Enjoy!


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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

Tim Ferrar's interest in pop and rock started as a child, listening to Top-40 radio for hours on end while playing air guitar in his bedroom. Eventually air guitar led to electric guitar, and Tim began playing in bands and writing his own songs. With an admitted weakness for "a great hook or a great guitar riff," Tim's musical tastes are broad and varied, ranging from Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga on the pop side to Bon Jovi and Foo Fighters on the rock side- making him the ideal guy to cover our Rock and Pop categories. By day, Tim is a mild-mannered accountant in Chicago. By night, he rocks out on electric guitar in a cover band in various clubs around town- much to the surprise of some of his clients.

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