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!