Don't Worry, Be Happy

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"Don't Worry, Be Happy"
Single by Bobby McFerrin
from the album Simple Pleasures
Released September 1988
Format 7", CD
Recorded 1988
Genre A cappella,[1][2] reggae[3]
Length 4:50 (album version)
4:03 (music video)
3:50 (radio edit)
Writer(s) Bobby McFerrin
Producer(s) Linda Goldstein
Music sample

"Don't Worry, Be Happy" is a song by musician Bobby McFerrin. Released in September 1988, it became the first a cappella song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a position it held for two weeks. The song's title is taken from a famous quote by Meher Baba. The original music video stars Robin Williams and Bill Irwin.[4] The "instruments" in the a cappella song are entirely overdubbed voice parts and other sounds made by McFerrin, using no instruments at all. The music video for the song is considerably shorter than the album version.


1966 Don't Worry Be Happy inspiration card

The Indian mystic and sage Meher Baba (1894–1969) often used the expression "Don't worry, be happy" when cabling his followers in the West.[5] However, Meher Baba communicated variations of the sentiment; fuller versions of the quote – such as, "Do your best. Then, don’t worry; be happy in My love. I will help you"[6] — which incorporate responsibility with detachment, as well as the master/disciple spiritual relationship. In the 1960s, the truncated version of this expression by Baba was printed up on inspiration cards and posters of the era. In 1988, McFerrin noticed a similar poster in the apartment of the jazz band Tuck & Patti in San Francisco. Inspired by the expression's charm and simplicity, McFerrin wrote the now famous song, which was included in the soundtrack of the movie Cocktail, and became a hit single the next year. In an interview by Bruce Fessier for USA Weekend magazine in 1988 McFerrin said, "Whenever you see a poster of Meher Baba, it usually says 'Don't worry, be happy,' which is a pretty neat philosophy in four words, I think."[7]

Versions of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" have been recorded by several artists. The Katsimiha Brothers made a Greek cover of the song with original lyrics, and Montenegrin musician Rambo Amadeus made a parody entitled "Don't Happy, Be Worry", as a critique to the optimism of the music scene in the former Yugoslavia in the face of war and economic depression. In addition, the lyrics of "Fight the Power" by hip-hop artists Public Enemy refer critically to "Don't Worry, Be Happy". This song is also added into the Big Mouth Billy Bass, a very popular animatronic singing toy. Hermes House Band covered the song on their Rhythm of the Nineties album in 2009. Reggae artist Cas Haley covered the song as a hidden bonus track on his Favorites album (together with former Jah Roots lead singer, Josh Heinrichs). Also in 1989 Dutch rock DJ Alfred Lagarde recorded a version in Dutch with a heavy Surinam accent under the name Johnny Camaro. Spanish Ska band The Locos covered this song in a similar style, Ska.

Usage in popular culture[edit]

The song and its title are commonly repeated in US culture. Comedian George Carlin wrote in Napalm and Silly Putty that many Americans would embrace the philosophy of denial in the song. 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 (a Democrat) 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. The George H. W. Bush campaign then reportedly desisted from further use of the song.[8] The song is frequently used in filmmaking and television production soundtracks to accompany light-hearted scenes, such as in Flushed Away (2006), WALL-E (2008), The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Simpsons, Futurama (whose version is sometimes referred to as "Don't Worry, Bee Happy"), Nip/Tuck and That '70s Show. It was also featured in the soundtrack to 1988 film Cocktail and it was featured in the 1997 film Casper: A Spirited Beginning. It has also been used in an ironic context for shocking or traumatic scenes, such as in Dawn of the Dead (2004) and Jarhead (2005). The song has been used in various forms in TV advertising for brands including Alamo Rent A Car, Walkers, Huggies, Ocean Spray and Channel 4's AXA Equity and Law in 1994, 1995 and 1996 (while Channel 4 used the coloured "blocks" ident). The 22nd episode of the animated series Iron Man: Armored Adventures is called "Don't Worry, Be Happy".

There is also reference to this song in the Warcraft III game, where the title is quoted by the hero of Rokhan.[9]

The song became an unofficial anthem in Jamaica after Hurricane Gilbert struck the island in September 1988 (coinciding with the song's release) and caused months of hardship to the population. The song is often erroneously attributed to Bob Marley.[10][better source needed]

In 2000, a version of this song was adapted to be used on the Big Mouth Billy Bass toy made by Gemmy Industries out of Irving, Texas.

in 2001, Mondo Club recorded the titular single. The performer was Trevor Taylor.[11]

The reference to Meher Baba was a question on the American TV show Jeopardy! on December 1, 2011.[12]

Chart success[edit]

Originally released in conjunction with the film Cocktail in 1988, the song originally peaked at No. 88 on the Billboard Hot 100.[13] The song was re-released the same year and peaked at No. 1 on September 24, 1988.[13] The song also peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Tracks chart[14] and No. 7 on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart.[13] The song was also a hit in the United Kingdom and on the UK Singles Chart, the song reached number 2 during its fifth week on the chart.

The song is the first a cappella song to reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart and one critic noted it is a "formula for facing life's trials."[15]


It is ranked No. 31 on VH1's 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s and also appears on Rolling Stone's list of the 15 Best Whistling Songs of All Time.[16] At the 1989 Grammy Awards, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" won the awards for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.


Chart (1988-1989) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[17] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[18] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[19] 2
Canadian RPM 30 Retail Singles[20] 1
Canadian RPM Top Singles[21] 1
France (SNEP)[22] 29
Germany (Media Control AG)[23] 1
Irish Singles Chart[24] 3
Italy (FIMI)[25] 18
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[26] 2
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[27] 3
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[28] 2
Norway (VG-lista)[29] 5
South African Chart[30] 4
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[31] 2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[32] 2
UK (Official Charts Company)[33] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[34] 1
US Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary[34] 7
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles[34] 11

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gary Graff, Daniel Durchholz (2012). Voyageur Press, ed. Rock 'n' Roll Myths: The True Stories Behind the Most Infamous Legends. p. 58. ISBN 978-0760342305.  "In the fall of 1988, singer Bobby McFerrin was on top of the music world. His song “Don't Worry, Be Happy,” a bouncy ode to the power of positivity, became the first a cappella song to climb to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100."
  2. ^ "Don't Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin". Retrieved 5 July 2013.  "This song reached #1 on the US pop charts, which is astounding for a song sung a cappella (without instruments). McFerrin recorded it using only his body to make all the sounds."
  3. ^ SPIN june 1989. SPIN Media LLC. 1989. p. 66. ISSN 0886-3032.  "Most important, Bobby McFerrin's song "Don't Worry Be Happy," the Grammy-winning song of the year, is a reggae song. We are striving to take reggae to a higher level so it can be appreciated internationally, and we believe we will achieve this soon"
  4. ^ Heldenfels, Rich (2012-06-27). "Mailbag: Mr. Noodle explained". Akron Beacon-Journal. Retrieved 2012-06-29. 
  5. ^ Meher Prabhu: Lord Meher, The Biography of the Avatar of the Age, Meher Baba. Bhau Kalchuri, Manifestation, Inc. 1986. pp. 5134, 5770, 5970, 6405, 6742...
  6. ^ "Don’t Worry, Be Happy!" entry in Baba's Words, The Master's Glossary, C-D
  7. ^ USA Weekend Magazine, October 21–23, 1988
  8. ^ ""Don't Worry, Be Happy", Bobby McFerrin". VH1's Pop-up Video. 1997.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Video on YouTube
  11. ^ Mondo Club – Don't Worry Be Happy
  12. ^ Jeopardy episode with Don't Worry Be Happy on YouTube
  13. ^ a b c [2]
  14. ^ "((( Bobby McFerrin > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles )))". allmusic. March 11, 1950. Retrieved October 22, 2009. 
  15. ^ Don't Worry, Be Happy. B Happy - Benny to Beyonce, 2012 -
  16. ^ Murphy, Kate (September 30, 2011). "The 15 Best Whistling Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  17. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  18. ^ "Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy –" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  19. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  20. ^ "Don't worry, be happy in Canadian 30 Retail Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  21. ^ "Don't worry, be happy in Canadian Top Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  22. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy" (in French). Les classement single.
  23. ^ "Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry, Be Happy". Media Control.
  24. ^ "Don't worry, be happy in Irish Chart". IRMA. Retrieved 5 June 2013.  Only one result when searching "Don't worry be happy"
  25. ^ "The best-selling singles of 1989 in Italy". HitParadeItalia (it). Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
    97. Don't worry be happy - Bobby McFerrin [#18, 1988/89]
  26. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Bobby McFerrin search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  27. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy" (in Dutch). Mega Single Top 100.
  28. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy". Top 40 Singles.
  29. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy". VG-lista.
  30. ^ John Samson. "Don't worry, be happy in South African Chart". Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  31. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy". Singles Top 60.
  32. ^ "Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy –". Swiss Singles Chart.
  33. ^ "1988 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive - 22nd October 1988". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  34. ^ a b c "Bobby McFerrin awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Sweet Child o' Mine" by Guns N' Roses
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
September 24, 1988 – October 1, 1988
Succeeded by
"Love Bites" by Def Leppard