McFerrin in March 2011
|Birth name||Robert McFerrin, Jr.|
March 11, 1950 |
Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.
|Genres||Jazz, reggae, a cappella, vocal, world, classical, smooth jazz|
|Instruments||Vocals, piano, bass guitar, clarinet|
Blue Note Records
|Associated acts||Chick Corea
Robert "Bobby" McFerrin, Jr. (born March 11, 1950) is an American vocalist and conductor. He is best known for his 1988 hit song "Don't Worry, Be Happy". He is a ten-time Grammy Award winner. He is well known for his unique vocal techniques and singing styles.
McFerrin was born in Manhattan, New York City, the son of operatic baritone Robert McFerrin and singer Sara Copper. He attended Cathedral High School (Los Angeles) and the California State University, Sacramento.
McFerrin married Debbie Green in 1975. They have three children.
McFerrin's song "Don't Worry, Be Happy" was a No. 1 U.S. pop hit in 1988 and won Song of the Year and Record of the Year honors. McFerrin has also worked in collaboration with instrumental performers, including pianists Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Joe Zawinul, drummer Tony Williams, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Vocal technique 
As a vocalist, McFerrin often switches rapidly between modal and falsetto registers to create polyphonic effects, performing both the main melody and the accompanying parts of songs. He makes use of percussive effects created both with his mouth and by tapping on his chest. McFerrin is also capable of multiphonic singing.
In 1986, McFerrin was the voice of Santa Bear in Santa Bear's First Christmas, and in 1987 he was the voice of Santa Bear/Bully Bear in the sequel Santa Bear's High Flying Adventure. That same year, he performed the theme song for the opening credits of Season 4 of The Cosby Show, as well as the music for a Cadbury chocolate commercial.
In 1988, McFerrin recorded the hit song "Don't Worry, Be Happy", which brought him widespread recognition across the world. However, the song's success "ended McFerrin's musical life as he had known it," and he began to pursue other musical possibilities – on stage and in recording studios. The song was used in George H. W. Bush's 1988 U.S. presidential election as Bush's 1988 official presidential campaign song, without Bobby McFerrin's permission or endorsement. In reaction, Bobby McFerrin publicly protested that particular use of his song, including stating that he was going to vote against Bush, and completely dropped the song from his own performance repertoire, to make the point even clearer.
In 1989, he composed and performed the music for the Pixar short film Knick Knack. The rough cut to which McFerrin recorded his vocals had the words "blah blah blah" in place of the end credits (meant to indicate that he should improvise). McFerrin spontaneously decided to sing "blah blah blah" as lyrics, and the final version of the short film includes these lyrics during the end credits. Also in 1989, he formed a ten-person "Voicestra" which he featured on both his 1990 album Medicine Music and in the score to the 1989 Oscar-winning documentary Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt. The song "Common Threads" has frequently reappeared in some public service advertisements about AIDS. McFerrin also performed with the Vocal Summit.
As early as 1992, widespread rumors circulated that falsely claimed McFerrin committed suicide. The rumors intentionally made fun of the distinctly positive nature of his popular song "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by claiming McFerrin ironically took his own life.
In addition to his vocal performing career, in 1994, Mr. McFerrin was appointed as creative chair of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. He makes regular tours as a guest conductor for symphony orchestras throughout the United States and Canada, including the San Francisco Symphony (on his 40th birthday), the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic and many others. In McFerrin's concert appearances, he combines serious conducting of classical pieces with his own unique vocal improvisations, often with participation from the audience and the orchestra. For example, the concerts often end with McFerrin conducting the orchestra in an a cappella rendition of the "William Tell Overture," in which the orchestra members sing their musical parts in McFerrin's vocal style instead of playing their parts on their instruments.
For a few years in the late 1990s, he toured a concert version of Porgy and Bess, partly in honor of his father, who sang the role for Sidney Poitier in the 1959 film version, and partly "to preserve the score's jazziness" in the face of "largely white orchestras" who tend not "to play around the bar lines, to stretch and bend". McFerrin says that because of his father's work in the movie, "This music has been in my body for 40 years, probably longer than any other music."
McFerrin also participates in various music education programs and makes volunteer appearances as a guest music teacher and lecturer at public schools throughout the U.S. McFerrin has collaborated with his son, Taylor, on various musical ventures. Taylor has recently been singing, rapping, and playing minimal keyboard accompaniment with Vernon Reid (leader-guitarist of Living Colour) in the eclectic metal-fusion-funk group Yohimbe Brothers.
In 2009, McFerrin and musician-scientist Daniel Levitin served as co-hosts of The Music Instinct, a two-hour award-winning documentary produced by PBS and based on Levitin's best-selling book This Is Your Brain On Music. Later that year, the two appeared together on a panel at the World Science Festival, where McFerrin demonstrated audience participation with the ubiquitous nature of human understanding of the pentatonic scale by singing and dancing, and having the audience sing while following his movements.
As leader 
- Bobby McFerrin (1982)
- The Voice (1984)
- Spontaneous Inventions (1986)
- Elephant's Child (1987)
- Simple Pleasures (1988)
- Don't Worry, Be Happy (1988)
- How the Rhino Got His Skin/How the Camel Got His Hump (1990)
- Medicine Music (1990)
- Play, with Chick Corea, 1990
- Hush, with Yo-Yo Ma, 1992
- Many Faces of Bird (1991)
- "The Siamese Cat Song" on Simply Mad About the Mouse (1991)
- Sorrow Is Not Forever (1994)
- Paper Music (1995, Doick with the St. Paul Chamber orchestra)
- Bang! Zoom (1995)
- The Mozart Sessions, with Chick Corea, 1996
- Circlesongs (1997)
- Mouth Music (2001)
- Beyond Words (2002) – featuring Chick Corea, Cyro Baptista and Richard Bona
- Konzert für Europa -The Schönbrunn Concert (2004)
- VOCAbuLarieS (2010)
- spirityouall (2013)
As sideman 
- Pharoah Sanders, Journey to the One, 1980
- Grover Washington, Jr., The Best Is Yet to Come, 1982
- Various Artists, The Young Lions, 1983
- Charles Lloyd Quartet, A Night in Copenhagen (Blue Note, 1984)
- Various Artists, A Tribute to Thelonius Monk, 1984
- Chico Freeman, Tangents, 1984
- Michael Hedges, Watching My Life Go By, 1985
- The Manhattan Transfer, Vocalese, 1985
- Weather Report, Sportin' Life, 1985
- Joe Zawinul, Di•a•lects, 1986
- Herbie Hancock, Round Midnight (soundtrack), 1986
- Al Jarreau, Heart’s Horizon, 1988
- Quincy Jones, Back on the Block, 1989
- Laurie Anderson, Strange Angels, 1989
- Gal Costa, The Laziest Gal in Town, 1991
- Dizzy Gillespie, Bird Songs: The Final Recordings (Telarc, 1992), To Bird with Love (Telarc, 1992)
- Modern Jazz Quartet, MJQ & Friends: A 40th Anniversary Celebration (Atlantic, 1994)
- Jack DeJohnette, Extra Special Edition (Blue Note, 1994)
- Yellowjackets, Dreamland, 1995
- George Martin, In My Life, 1998 – on "Come Together" with Robin Williams
- En Vogue, Masterpiece Theatre, 2000
- Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Little Worlds, 2003
- Chick Corea, Rendezvous in New York, 2003
- Wynton Marsalis, The Magic Hour, 2004
- size2shoes, 2006 (free track)
- 1985, Best Jazz Vocal Performance, male, "Another Night In Tunisia" with Jon Hendricks in the album Vocalese
- 1985, Best Vocal Arrangement for two or more voices, "Another Night In Tunisia" with Cheryl Bentyne
- 1986, Best Jazz Vocal Performance, male, "Round Midnight" in the album Round Midnight (soundtrack)
- 1987, Best Jazz Vocal Performance, male, "What Is This Thing Called Love" in the album The Other Side of Round Midnight with Herbie Hancock
- 1987, Best Recording for Children, "The Elephant's Child" with Jack Nicholson
- 1988, Song of the year, Best Pop Vocal Performance, male, Record of the year, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" in the album Simple Pleasures
- 1988, Best Jazz Vocal Performance, male, "Brothers" in the album Duets
- 1992, Best Jazz Vocal Performance, "Round Midnight" in the album Play
- Bobby McFerrin's Improv-Inspired 'Vocabularies'. Npr.org. Retrieved July 1, 2011.
- . Carl Anthony Online. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
- "Don't Worry, Be Dead". Snopes.com. Retrieved July 1, 2011.
- Cori Ellison, "'Porgy' and Music's Racial Politics", December 13, 1998, The New York Times; available online here . Retrieved July 15, 2010.
- Bobby McFerrin demonstrates the power of the pentatonic scale, using audience participation, at the event "Notes & Neurons: In Search of the Common Chorus", from the 2009 World Science Festival, June 12, 2009.. Retrieved April 11, 2010
- Moley & Bobby performance download. Vault.size2shoes.com (January 14, 2009). Retrieved July 1, 2011.
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