Don't Worry, Be Happy

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"Don't Worry, Be Happy"
Single by Bobby McFerrin
from the album Simple Pleasures
A-side"Don't Worry Be Happy"[1]
    • 12" maxi
    • 7" promo
    • 7" single
    • CD single
Length4:54 (album version)
4:03 (music video)
3:50 (radio edit)
Songwriter(s)Bobby McFerrin[1]
Producer(s)Linda Goldstein[1]
Music video
"Don't Worry, Be Happy" on YouTube

"Don't Worry, Be Happy" is a song by American musician Bobby McFerrin released in 1988. It was the first a cappella song to reach number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a position it held for two weeks. Originally released in conjunction with the film Cocktail, the song peaked at No. 1 on September 24, 1988,[3] displacing "Sweet Child o' Mine" by Guns N' Roses.[4]

The song also peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart[5] and No. 7 on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart.[3] The song was also a hit in the United Kingdom, reaching number 2 during its fifth week on the UK Singles Chart.[6] In Canada, the song reached No. 1 in its eighth week.[7] One critic noted it as a "formula for facing life's trials".[8]


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

Indian mystic Meher Baba (1894–1969) often used the expression "Don't worry, be happy" when cabling his followers in the West,[9] and the expression was printed on inspirational cards and posters during the 1960s. In 1988, McFerrin noticed a similar poster in the apartment of jazz duo Tuck & Patti in San Francisco,[citation needed] and he was inspired by the expression's charm and simplicity.[10] He wrote the song that was included in the soundtrack of the movie Cocktail and became a hit single the next year.[11]


The "instruments" in the a cappella song are entirely overdubbed voice parts and other sounds made by McFerrin, using no instruments at all; McFerrin also sings with an affected accent, though he stated that "I hate to go so far as to say it's Jamaican. It was heavily influenced by Juan's Mexican Restaurant, which was just around the corner from the studio."[12] "Don't Worry, Be Happy" is written in the key of B major.[13]

Music video[edit]

The comedic original music video for the song stars McFerrin, Robin Williams, and Bill Irwin,[14] and is somewhat shorter than the album version.


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.

Critical reception[edit]

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.[15][16] It was also featured at #301 in the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts' 'Songs of the Century' in 2001.[17]

However, in 2011, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" was named as the worst song of all time by Village Voice critic Michael Musto,[18] and it topped Q100 DJ Bert Weiss's list of tracks he would forever ban from radio.[19] In the "50 Worst Songs Ever", Blender said that "it's difficult to think of a song more likely to plunge you into suicidal despondency than this", and also lambasted its "appalling" lyrics.[20]

Kieran McCarthy of Allmusic expected the song would "probably remain prevalent in pop culture as long as humans speak English and play music."[21]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[55] Gold 45,000double-dagger
Germany (BVMI)[56] Platinum 500,000^
Sweden (GLF)[57] Gold 25,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[58] Silver 200,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[59] Gold 500,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Usage in popular culture[edit]

  • Comedian George Carlin wrote in Napalm and Silly Putty that the song's message "was exactly the kind of mindless philosophy that Americans would respond to".[60]
  • Featured in the 1988 romance film Cocktail, starring Tom Cruise and Elisabeth Shue. It was also released as part of the film's official soundtrack.
  • 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, 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 Bush campaign then reportedly desisted from further use of the song.[61]
  • Miami television station WTVJ used this song for a span of two weeks surrounding January 1, 1989 as part of a $3 million promotional campaign for their network affiliation switch to NBC, who had purchased the station in 1987.[62] WTVJ even hired McFerrin for a custom re-recording with lyrics referencing both NBC shows and WTVJ's news department.[63]
  • 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 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.[64][65]
  • In 1993, it was featured in the trailer for the film Captain Ron.
  • In 1997, the song was featured in the direct-to-video film Casper: A Spirited Beginning.
  • In 2001, Mondo Club recorded the titular single. The performer was Trevor Taylor.[66]
  • In 2003, the song was parodied on the show Futurama, in the episode "The Sting".
  • In 2005, featured in the biographical military drama Jarhead, starring Jake Gyllenhaal.
  • In 2006, the song was featured in the animated film Flushed Away.
  • In 2008, the song was featured in the animated film WALL-E.
  • Until 2010, the song was used as the theme song for Garda Oto commercials in Indonesia.
  • In November 2014, it was featured as a mashup with "Winter Wonderland" by a cappella group Pentatonix featuring Tori Kelly on the album That's Christmas to Me.[67]
  • It was featured in the dance video game Just Dance 2015.
  • In 2017, the song was covered by Kermit Ruffins, Irvin Mayfield, Jason Marsalis, Cyril Neville, Haley Reinhart, and Glen David Andrews for Ruffins and Mayfield's album A Beautiful World.[68]
  • In 2018, the song was featured in the animated film Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation.
  • In 2019, it was featured in the first episode of the fourth season of the USA Network TV series Mr. Robot.

Cover versions[edit]

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 titled "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". A version of this song sung by The Hit Crew 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.

Confusion with Bob Marley[edit]

Contrary to popular belief, the famous reggae musician Bob Marley never recorded a version of "Don't Worry, Be Happy", as he died seven years before the song was written. (Marley's own hit song "Three Little Birds" includes a similar lyric in its chorus: "Don't worry about a thing, every little thing's gonna be all right.")[citation needed] Despite this, a video on YouTube attributing "Don't Worry, Be Happy" to Marley gained over 100 million views.[69]


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External links[edit]