One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1988 – Bobby McFerrin

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin

I’m sorry. Unfortunately, Bobby McFerrin had only one hit, so he makes this list. While this song was my #1 Worst Hit of the ’80s, it ranked #31 on VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s. It was also a #1 hit, so somebody must like it! So here we go…

Bobby McFerrin was born to be a musician. His father, Robert Sr., was the first African American to be a regular with New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Anf his mother, Sara is a former soloist with regional opera companies and in Broadway shows.

The Indian mystic and sage Meher Baba (1894–1969) often used the expression “Don’t worry, be happy”. In the ’60s, this expression by Baba was printed up on inspiration cards and posters. In 1988, McFerrin noticed this type of poster in the apartment of the jazz band Tuck & Patti in San Francisco. Inspired by the expression’s charm and simplicity, McFerrin wrote the now famous song. “Don’t Worry Be Happy” was included in the soundtrack of the movie Cocktail. While this song annoys me to no end, I do have to admit that Bobby McFerrin is very talented. The song is a cappella. The “instruments” that may be heard in the song are overdubbed voice parts and other sounds made by McFerrin. No instruments were used at all. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” won Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the 1989 Grammy Awards.

The more things change the more they stay the same. Republican George H. W. used “”Don’t Worry Be Happy” as his 1988 official presidential campaign song (without Bobby McFerrin’s permission or endorsement). And like most artists McFerrin was a Democrat, and protested the use of the song. He even dropped the song from his own performance setlist. Bush then stopped using the song.

And No! Bobby McFerrin did not commit suicide! He is still with us today. In the early ’90s, there was an urban legend that Bobby McFerrin committed suicide. Somebody was probably trying to be ironic, and then word spread like wildfire. McFerrin makes regular tours as a guest conductor for symphony orchestras throughout the United States and Canada. He is still very active in the music community.

Besides “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, you may know this other song by Bobby McFerrin:

So let’s go back to 1988, smoke a doobie if you have to, and “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”:

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2 thoughts on “One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1988 – Bobby McFerrin”

  1. Ah, that wasn’t so bad… 🙂

    I do agree his Cosby theme was better, though. Has there ever been another show that had so many different opening songs? After looking through all of them, each one is good in its own way.

  2. Yeah, that was pretty cool how the theme song evolved just about every year. Ahh…theme songs! Those were the days! I think the only one I don’t scan by these days is Hawaii Five-O.

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