Don't Worry, Be Happy

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This article is about the song by Bobby McFerrin. For other uses, see Don't Worry, Be Happy (disambiguation).
"Don't Worry, Be Happy"
Single by Bobby McFerrin
from the album Simple Pleasures
A-side "Don't Worry Be Happy"[1]
B-side "Good Lovin'"
"Simple Pleasures" (optional)
Released September 1988, 1989
Recorded 1988
Length 4:50 (album version)
4:03 (music video)
3:50 (radio edit)
Label EMI-Manhattan Records[1]
Writer(s) Bobby McFerrin[1]
Producer(s) Linda Goldstein[1]
Certification Platinum[3]
Germany Platinum (certified by BMieV in 1989)[4]
US Gold (certified by RIAA in Jan 1989)[4]
Music sample

"Don't Worry, Be Happy" is a song by musician Bobby McFerrin. Released in September 1988, it became the first acappella 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 quotation by Meher Baba. The "instruments" in the acappella song are entirely overdubbed voice parts and other sounds made by McFerrin, using no instruments at all; McFerrin also sings with an affected accent.[5] The comedic original music video for the song stars McFerrin, Robin Williams, and Bill Irwin,[6] and is considerably shorter than the album version.


Meher Baba, who often used the phrase "Don't worry, be happy"

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.[7] However, Baba also 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"[8] — incorporate responsibility with detachment, as well as the master/disciple spiritual relationship.

In the 1960s, the truncated version of the expression was printed up on inspirational 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."[9]

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.

Linda Goldstein said the song gave McFerrin "the freedom to explore," adding, "He is a man of infinite, unfathomable, boundless voices and everything he has ever heard has gone into his brain, from the Mickey Mouse Club theme to the Metropolitan Opera."[10]

Chart performance[edit]

Originally released in conjunction with the film Cocktail in 1988, the song originally peaked at No. 88 on the Billboard Hot 100.[11] The song was re-released the same year and peaked at No. 1 on September 24, 1988[11] displacing "Sweet Child o' Mine" by Guns N' Roses which had previously held the No. 1 spot.[12]

The song also peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Tracks chart[13] and No. 7 on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart.[11] 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."[14]

While the song reached No. 1 on the charts, its album Simple Pleasures reached No. 12 on the album charts after starting out at No. 20 when it was first released.[12]

Usage in popular culture[edit]

  • Comedian George Carlin wrote in Napalm and Silly Putty that many Americans would embrace the philosophy of denial in the song.[15]
  • 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.[16]
  • In 1989, Delacorte Press published a book titled Don’t Worry, Be Happy with the song’s lyrics, 20 new verses written by McFerrin, and illustrations by Bennett Carlson.
  • 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 featured in the soundtrack to the 1988 film Cocktail and it was featured in the 1997 film Casper: A Spirited Beginning.
  • It has 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". Shortly after the song was a hit, the song was used by local Miami TV station WTVJ in its promos promoting its switch from CBS to NBC.
  • There is also reference to this song in the Warcraft III game, where the title is quoted by the hero of Rokhan.[17]
  • 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.[18][19][20]
  • 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.[21]
  • In 2003, a parody version of the song was used in the Futurama episode "The Sting".
  • It was the answer to a question on the American TV show Jeopardy! on December 1, 2011.[22]
  • In November 2013, The Overtones recorded a cover of the song for their album Saturday Night at the Movies.
  • It is featured on the rhythm game Just Dance 2015 released in 2014, in which a cover version is used.
  • On November 2014, it is featured as a mashup with "Winter Wonderland" by a cappella group Pentatonix featuring Tori Kelly on the album That's Christmas to Me.[23]


The song 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.[24] 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 (1988–89) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[25] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[26] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[27] 2
Canadian RPM 30 Retail Singles[28] 1
Canadian RPM Top Singles[29] 1
France (SNEP)[30] 29
Germany (Official German Charts)[31] 1
Irish Singles Chart[32] 3
Italy (FIMI)[33] 18
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[34] 2
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[35] 3
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[36] 2
Norway (VG-lista)[37] 5
South African Chart[38] 4
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[39] 2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[40] 2
UK (Official Charts Company)[41] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[42] 1
US Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary[42] 7
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles[42] 11


  1. ^ a b c d e "Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry Be Happy". Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  2. ^ SPIN june 1989 (PDF). SPIN Media LLC. 1989. p. 66. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved 2013-06-05. 
  3. ^ "Don't Worry Be Happy Stats". 8tracks Inc. Retrieved 2014-06-09. 
  4. ^ a b Hawtin, Steve. "Song title 813 - Don't Worry Be Happy". Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  5. ^ Saunders, Michael. "'Don't Worry, Be Happy'--It's Catching" Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Sun-Sentinel:1988.
  6. ^ Heldenfels, Rich (June 27, 2012). "Mailbag: Mr. Noodle explained". Akron Beacon-Journal. Retrieved 2012-06-29. 
  7. ^ Bhau Kalchuri (1986). 'Meher Prabhu: Lord Meher, The Biography of the Avatar of the Age, Meher Baba. Manifestation, Inc. pp. 5134, 5770, 5970, 6405, 6742. 
  8. ^ "Baba's Words, The Master's Glossary". pp. C–D. 
  9. ^ "'USA Weekend Magazine". October 21, 1988. 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 
  10. ^ "Bobby McFerrin Extended Interview" (Video Interview). Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c [1]
  12. ^ a b Holden, Stephen (Sep 29, 1988). "Don`t Worry, Be Happy: Bobby Mcferrin Has A No. 1 Hit". New York Times News Service. Retrieved 9 June 2014. McFerrin`s hit is earning the superb vocal improviser a mass audience, as his album, ``Simple Pleasures`` leaps from No. 20 to No. 12 on the album chart. 
  13. ^ "Bobby McFerrin Awards". All Media Network, LLC. March 11, 1950. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  14. ^ Don't Worry, Be Happy. B Happy - Benny to Beyonce, 2012 -
  15. ^ Carlin, George (2001). Napalm and Silly Putty. 
  16. ^ ""Don't Worry, Be Happy", Bobby McFerrin". VH1's Pop-up Video. 1997. 
  17. ^ "Quotes of Warcraft III/Orc Horde". Jan 29, 2007. 
  18. ^ Andrews L. Ewoo (Sep 12, 2013). "Public Figure mentions song". 
  19. ^ O'Sullivan, Helen. "Revd Helen OSullivan on Don't Worry Be Happy" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-06-09. 
  20. ^ Cohen, Barry (Dec 11, 2013). "Don’t Worry, Be Happy 5.4 Project". Retrieved 2014-06-09. 
  21. ^ Mondo Club – Don't Worry Be Happy
  22. ^ Jeopardy episode with Don't Worry Be Happy on YouTube
  23. ^ "[Official Video] Winter Wonderland/Don’t Worry Be Happy - Pentatonix (ft Tori Kelly)". YouTube. November 4, 2014. 
  24. ^ Murphy, Kate (Sep 30, 2011). "The 15 Best Whistling Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-01-21. 
  25. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  26. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  27. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  28. ^ "Don't Worry, Be Happy in Canadian 30 Retail Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 2013-06-05. 
  29. ^ "Don't Worry, Be Happy in Canadian Top Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 2013-06-05. 
  30. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy" (in French). Les classement single.
  31. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy". GfK Entertainment.
  32. ^ "Don't Worry, Be Happy in Irish Chart". IRMA. Retrieved 2013-06-05.  Only one result when searching "Don't worry be happy"
  33. ^ "The best-selling singles of 1989 in Italy". HitParadeItalia (it). Retrieved 2013-06-05. 
    97. Don't Worry, Be Happy - Bobby McFerrin [#18, 1988/89]
  34. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Bobby McFerrin search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  35. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  36. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy". Top 40 Singles.
  37. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy". VG-lista.
  38. ^ John Samson. "Don't Worry, Be Happy in South African Chart". Retrieved 2013-06-05. 
  39. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy". Singles Top 60.
  40. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy". Swiss Singles Chart.
  41. ^ "1988 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive - 22nd October 1988". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2013-06-05. 
  42. ^ a b c "Bobby McFerrin awards on Allmusic". All Media Network, LLC. Retrieved 2013-06-05. 

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