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
Length4:50 (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, which was 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 R&B/Hip-Hop Tracks chart[5] and No. 7 on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart.[3] 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 (kept from the top spot by Whitney Houston's "One Moment in Time").[6] In Canada, the song reached No. 1 in its 8th week.[7]

The song is the first a cappella song to reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and 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. He wrote the song that was included in the soundtrack of the movie Cocktail and became a hit single the next year.[10]


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.[11]

Music video[edit]

The comedic original music video for the song stars McFerrin, Robin Williams, and Bill Irwin,[12] and is somewhat shorter than the album version.


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.[13] 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]

This song was named by Village Voice critic Michael Musto as the worst of all time,[14] and it topped Q100 DJ Bert Weiss's list of tracks he would forever ban from radio.[15] 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.[16]


Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1988–89) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[17] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[18] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[19] 2
Canada 30 Retail Singles (RPM)[20] 1
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[21] 1
Denmark (IFPI)[22] 2
France (SNEP)[23] 29
Iceland (Íslenski Listinn Topp 10)[24] 1
Ireland (IRMA)[25] 3
Italy (FIMI)[26] 18
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[27] 2
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[28] 3
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[29] 2
Norway (VG-lista)[30] 5
South Africa (South African Singles Chart)[31] 4
Spain (AFYVE)[32] 5
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[33] 2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[34] 2
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[35] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[36] 1
US Billboard Adult Contemporary[36] 7
US Billboard Hot R&B Singles[36] 11
West Germany (Official German Charts)[37] 1
Chart (2016) Peak
Poland (Polish Airplay Top 100)[38] 75

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1988) Position
United States (Billboard)[39][40] 37


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Germany (BVMI)[41] Platinum 500,000^
United States (RIAA)[42] Gold 500,000^

^shipments 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".[43]
  • 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.
  • Featured in 1988 on the TV show «Full House». We can see Michelle Listening to the song on headphones and saying « Don’t worry. Be happy.». In This scene we don’t actually hear the song but But we can easily guess that this is what she is listening to. Though, it becomes also one of the catch sentences of the character in the following seasons
  • 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.[44]
  • 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.[45][46]
  • 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.[47]
  • 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 parodied 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.[48]
  • 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.[49]
  • 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. Spanish Ska band The Locos covered this song in a similar style, ska.

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. Despite this, a video on YouTube attributed to the song to Marley gained over 100 million views.[50]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry Be Happy". Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  2. ^ SPIN june 1989 (PDF). SPIN Media LLC. 1989. p. 66. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  3. ^ a b "The Hot 100: The Week of September 24, 1988". Billboard.
  4. ^ Holden, Stephen (September 29, 1988). "Don't Worry, Be Happy: Bobby Mcferrin Has A No. 1 Hit". New York Times News Service. Retrieved June 9, 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.
  5. ^ "Bobby McFerrin Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved October 22, 2009.
  6. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100 | Official Charts Company". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Don't Worry, Be Happy. B Happy – Benny to Beyonce, 2012
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Fessier, Bruce (1988). Interview. USA Weekend magazine, 1988.
  11. ^ Saunders, Michael. "'Don't Worry, Be Happy'--It's Catching" Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Sun-Sentinel:1988.
  12. ^ Heldenfels, Rich (June 27, 2012). "Mailbag: Mr. Noodle explained". Akron Beacon-Journal. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  13. ^ Murphy, Kate (September 30, 2011). "The 15 Best Whistling Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on February 5, 2012. Retrieved January 21, 2012.
  14. ^ Musto, Michael (17 October 2011). "The Seven Worst Songs of All Time". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 3 January 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  15. ^ Weiss, Bert (2015). "The Songs YOU Would Ban Forever If You Could". The Bert Show. Q100. Retrieved June 24, 2016.
  16. ^ Run for Your Life! It's the 50 Worst Songs Ever!, Blender, May 2004. Wayback Machine archive of 24 January 2005. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  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. Archived from the original on June 21, 2017. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  21. ^ "Don't Worry, Be Happy in Canadian Top Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Archived from the original on June 21, 2017. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  22. ^ Danish Singles Chart 18 November 1988
  23. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy" (in French). Les classement single.
  24. ^ "Íslenski Listinn Topp 10 (14. október 1988)" (PDF) (in Icelandic). Dagblaðið Vísir. Retrieved July 23, 2018. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  25. ^ "Don't Worry, Be Happy in Irish Chart". IRMA. Archived from the original on June 3, 2009. Retrieved June 5, 2013. Only one result when searching "Don't worry be happy"
  26. ^ "The best-selling singles of 1989 in Italy". HitParadeItalia (it). Retrieved June 5, 2013.
    97. Don't Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin [#18, 1988/89]
  27. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Bobby McFerrin" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  28. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  29. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy". Top 40 Singles.
  30. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy". VG-lista.
  31. ^ John Samson. "Don't Worry, Be Happy in South African Chart". Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  32. ^ "LISTAS DE AFYVE – Singles 1988" (in Spanish). Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  33. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy". Singles Top 100.
  34. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy". Swiss Singles Chart.
  35. ^ "1988 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive – 22nd October 1988". Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  36. ^ a b c "Bobby McFerrin Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved August 3, 2002.
  37. ^ " – Bobby McFerrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  38. ^ "Listy bestsellerów, wyróżnienia :: Związek Producentów Audio-Video". Polish Airplay Top 100. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  39. ^ "1988 The Year in Music & Video: Top Pop Singles". Billboard. 100 (52): Y-20. December 24, 1988.
  40. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 1988". Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  41. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Bobby McFerrin; 'Don't Worry, Be Happy')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  42. ^ "American single certifications – Bobby Mc Ferrin – Don't Worry, Be Happy". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved March 26, 2016. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  43. ^ Carlin, George (2001). Napalm and Silly Putty. Hyperion Books. p. 246.
  44. ^ ""Don't Worry, Be Happy", Bobby McFerrin". VH1's Pop-up Video. 1997.
  45. ^ O'Sullivan, Helen. "Revd Helen OSullivan on Don't Worry Be Happy" (PDF). Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  46. ^ Cohen, Barry (December 11, 2013). "Don't Worry, Be Happy 5.4 Project". Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  47. ^ Mondo Club – Don't Worry Be Happy
  48. ^ "[Official Video] Winter Wonderland/Don't Worry Be Happy – Pentatonix (ft Tori Kelly)". YouTube. November 4, 2014.
  49. ^ "Kermit Ruffins • Irvin Mayfield – A Beautiful World". Basin Street Records. Retrieved October 14, 2017.
  50. ^

External links[edit]