Scatman John

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Scatman John
Media 55.GIF
Background information
Birth name John Paul Larkin
Born (1942-03-13)March 13, 1942
El Monte, California, U.S.
Died December 3, 1999(1999-12-03) (aged 57)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation(s) Music artist
Years active 1976–1999

John Paul Larkin (March 13, 1942 – December 3, 1999), better known by his stage name Scatman John, was an American music artist who created a fusion of scat singing and dance music, best known for his 1995 hits "Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop)" and "Scatman's World" and 1997 hit "Everybody Jam!"

As a stutterer, Larkin stated that scatting was "turning [his] biggest problem into [his] biggest asset." Scatman John sold millions of recordings worldwide and was named "Best New Artist" in the Echo Awards in both Japan and Germany. He was a recipient of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's Annie Glenn Award for outstanding service to the stuttering community and National Stuttering Association Hall of Fame.


Born in El Monte, California, Larkin suffered a severe stutter from the time he learned to speak, which led to an emotionally traumatic childhood. At age twelve he began to learn piano, and was introduced to the art of scat singing at the age of fourteen through records by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, among others.[1] The piano provided him with a means of artistic expression to compensate for his speech difficulties, as he "hid behind [the] piano because I was scared to speak."[2]

Larkin became a professional jazz pianist in the 1970s and 1980s, playing many engagements in jazz clubs around Los Angeles.[citation needed] In 1986, he released the self-titled album John Larkin on the Transition label. This album was produced by Philip Cacayorin at the Hollywood Central Studios.

Birth of "Scatman John"[edit]

To advance his career in 1990, Larkin moved to Berlin, Germany. From there he discovered the appreciative jazz culture and started playing jazz gigs.[3] Here he decided to add singing to his act for the first time, inspired by the standing ovation he received for his rendition of the song "On the Sunny Side of the Street".[citation needed] Soon after, his agent Manfred Zähringer from Iceberg Records (Denmark) thought of combining scat-singing with modern dance music and hip hop sounds. Larkin was resistant at first, but BMG Hamburg was open.[citation needed]

Larkin was worried that listeners would realize he stuttered, and his wife Judy suggested that he talk about it directly in his music. Working with dance producers Ingo Kays and Tony Catania, he recorded the first single, "Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop)", a song intended to inspire children who stuttered to overcome adversity.[citation needed] He adopted the new name and persona of Scatman John.

International success[edit]

In 1995, at age 53, Larkin became a worldwide star. Sales of his debut single were slow at first, but gradually reached number-one in many countries and sold over six million records worldwide. "Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop)" charted quite highly across Europe and remains his biggest-selling and most well-known song.[4] He later followed up with the song "Scatman's World" entering the UK Singles chart at number 10, which met lesser but still notable success, selling a million copies and charting highly throughout Europe.[5]

Following the success of these two singles, he released his debut album as Scatman John, also titled Scatman's World, which entered the top 10 album charts in many countries including his then home Germany[6] as well as in Switzerland, Finland and Norway;[7] the album eventually sold millions of copies worldwide.[3] He began a promotional and concert tour of Europe and Asia. Talking about an appearance in Spain, Larkin said "the kids screamed for five minutes straight, I couldn’t start the song".[8]

Post-Scatman’s World [edit]

The second Scatman John album, Everybody Jam!, was released in 1996. While nowhere near as successful on an international level as his debut, the album and accompanying single took off in Japan, the country in which he would see success on a larger scale than anywhere else in the world.[citation needed] He was so popular there that Japanese toy stores sold dolls of his likeness and he appeared on phone cards and Coca-Cola cans.[citation needed] In Europe, subsequent singles failed to replicate the chart success of his first two singles and he was often regarded a two-hit wonder.

The Japanese version of Everybody Jam! included a total of five bonus tracks, including the hit singles there Su Su Su Super Ki Re i and "Pripri Scat", which were commissioned by Japanese companies for commercials for cosmetics and pudding respectively. The Ultraman franchise even jumped on the Scatman bandwagon, releasing a single titled Scatultraman, the cover art of which featured the Ultraman characters wearing Scatman's trademark hat and mustache.[citation needed] The album reached No. 45 in Switzerland.[9]

Final years and death[edit]

In late 1998 Larkin was diagnosed with lung cancer, but he continued his musical work despite being told to take it easy from his substantial workload. In June 1999, Larkin released his fourth and ultimately final album as Scatman John, Take Your Time. Shortly afterwards, he was sent into intensive treatment. Even while suffering, Larkin remained positive, saying “Whatever God wants is fine by me ... I've had the very best life. I have tasted beauty.”[10] Larkin died at his home in Los Angeles on 3 December 1999 at the age of 57. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea near Malibu, California.[11]



Music videos[edit]

Year Video Director
1994 "Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop)" Kerstin Mueller
1995 "Scatman's World" Martin Weisz
"Song of Scatland"
1996 "Everybody Jam!" Hannes Rossacher
"Su Su Su Super Ki Re i"


  1. ^ Perrone, Pierre (1999-12-23). "Obituary: John Larkin". The Independent. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  2. ^ OLIVER, MYRNA (1999-12-08). "John Larkin; Scat Singer Overcame Stuttering". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  3. ^ a b Scatman John’s Interview with Ira Zimmerman,
  4. ^ Scatman John's “Scatman” single’s positions,
  5. ^ Scatman John’s “Scatman’s World” single’s positions,
  6. ^ "Scatman John's "Scatman's World" album position in Germany". Archived from the original on December 12, 2009. Retrieved 2008-06-24. ,
  7. ^ Scatman John's "Scatman's World" album’s positions
  8. ^ Zimmerman, Ira. “The Stutter and the Scat is the Same Thing” Scatman Interview, 1995-12-04
  9. ^ "Scatman John - Everbody Jam! (Album)". Retrieved June 30, 2010. 
  10. ^ "a few cool things › “Scatman John” Larkin – John Larkin LP (1986)". Archived from the original on August 24, 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  11. ^ Remembering Scatman John Larkin Do You Miss Him

External links[edit]