I tend to think that “Don’t Worry Be Happy” was one of the worst things that could have happened to Bobby McFerrin.
I had the album that the ubiquitous song appeared on for a full year before it came out as a heavy rotation single in 1988. By the time it became overpoweringly popular, it was old hat for me and my friends. It made a lot of money, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing it.
But what it obscured was McFerrin as one of the most flexible and incredible artists we have seen in this generation.
He is not just a gimmick song singer. He has won 10 Grammy awards, been a guest conductor at the Cleveland, London, Chicago and London Symphonies, and worked with giants of the jazz, classical, and folk music worlds like Chick Corea, Bela Fleck, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O’Connor. Because he can so easily flip into his falsetto and use it so quickly and subtly, there is simply no one like him.
This video is a great example of how he works with some of those greats. Ma, Meyer, and O’Connor have done multiple albums together, including one of my favorites, Appalachian Journey. Together, the perform “Hush Little Baby.”