Thursday, September 2, 2021

"Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  3601
Date:  07/30/1988
Debut:  83
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  26
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  This New York-born vocalist quickly made a name for himself in the jazz world with his unique abilities. McFerrin would perform songs a cappella, yet somehow managed to imitate other instruments to make it sound like he is being accompanied by other musicians. His expertise in specific techniques of vocal work got him noticed and by 1982 he had released his first album. While the album featured some of McFerrin's specialized work, several of the tracks he performed with a rhythm section. Two years later, he would step away from working with other musicians for The Voice, which only featured McFerrin's vocals. It was highly regarded and other work would follow including arranging and performing on the 1985 Manhattan Transfer track "Another Night in Tunisia," which earned McFerrin two Grammys. Spontaneous Inventions would follow in '86. It featured a few guest performers including Robin Williams. However, it would be this little ditty that McFerrin wrote for his fourth album Simple Pleasures that would rocket him to stardom. The a cappella track with its upbeat message and hooky passages had the world whistling. Even its title became a sort of catchphrase. Released as a single, it would also be featured in the hit Tom Cruise film Cocktail and on the associated soundtrack. The unusual tune took over radio and soon it was climbing the charts. Eventually it would reach #7 AC and #11 R&B while becoming the first a cappella song to reach #1 on the Pop chart. The hit would help the Coctail soundtrack get to #2 and sell over four million copies while McFerrin's Simple Pleasures album would hit #5 and go platinum. The song would win McFerrin three Grammys including Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male. Seemingly out of nowhere, this one man vocal band became a major music celebrity. McFerrin would be a true one-hit wonder with this #1 hit being his only one to make the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  Yes, I admit it. Back in the day I liked this track. It was a silly, fun tune that was undeniably catchy and the fact that it was all McFerrin's overdubbed voice make it even quirkier. It got played on so many radio stations that even my dad would whistle the tune and tell folks "don't worry, be happy." It was just one of those strange songs in music history that came along, hit big, made a star out of the performer, and then later found itself on many "worst song" lists. In other words, it was a faddish phenomenon. The fact that it won Record and Song of the Year Grammys made it even more famous (or infamous). While the tune was fun for a while, I quickly got tired of it. Soon it became annoying, and then nearly unbearable. Just the mere hint of the opening whistle and "klook-klooks" would send me lunging towards the dial to change the station. These days I appreciate it for what it was; just a lark of a tune that beat the odds and made it to #1. I certainly don't clamor to hear it and if I do I may even roll my eyes a bit, but I'll let it play out. However, I'm still a little peeved about the Grammy wins over far more deserving songs like Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car."

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  McFerrin had Grammys, a #1 hit, and a platinum album. He could basically write his own ticket anywhere and try to seize the moment, but he did the opposite. McFerrin basically stepped aside and let the song do its thing before heading out on a new musical adventure. It seems he didn't want to do or be forced into replicating his success. McFerrin wanted to pursue other musical adventures. Having the hit was very unexpected and it sort of threw him for a loop. Therefore, he stepped away from music for a while to figure out what he wanted to do next. He would later make guest appearances with other artists, write and perform scores for film and TV, and would even be a guest conductor with several major orchestras. He would also develop a 10-person vocal group called Voicestra that would be featured on his 1990 album Medicine Man. Along the way he would add to his Grammy collection. In all, McFerrin would win 10 Grammys from 18 nominations. Still, the vast majority of folks will remember him for this song, which got him tagged as a one-hit wonder.


1 comment:

  1. The worst #1 song of the 80s...Right after At This Moment.