Rhapsody in Black

Bobby McFerrin boldly embraces the body to create music

Bobby McFerrin is known for his charismatic presence on and off stage. Pablo Porciuncula/AFP/Getty Images


Rhapsody in Black - Bobby McFerrin

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November 17, 2022

Jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin is a musical multi-tasker like no other. Not afraid to break tradition, McFerrin has opened up the world of music to embrace all different kinds of sounds. McFerrin’s approach consists of his choice of material, his bombastic singing and the fact that he could sound like an entire band. A musical multi-tasker, he often added percussive effects by beating his chest, clicking his tongue and sometimes employing non-musical items. Herbie Hancock and a few jazz composers dared to tinker around with beatboxing, electronics, or early hip-hop. McFerrin boldly embraced all that and more.

Musical selections from Bobby McFerrin

“Ave Maria”

During a live performance in Montreal, McFerrin decided to try something unique. What many thought would be a standard singing of “Ave Maria” ended up becoming a beautiful sing-along with the audience. The on-stage choir with the audience sang the words while McFerrin performed the accompaniment using nothing but sounds produced by his body.

“Thinkin' About Your Body”

One performance and style feature that he is known for is self-bodily accompaniment. Much of his music output consists of added percussive effects by beating his chest, clicking his tongue, and other techniques. In this work, these extended techniques give a funny double meaning that goes along with the text.

“Don't Worry Be Happy“

While McFerrin is considered a jazz vocalist, he has had one song that topped the Billboard charts. “Don’t Worry Be Happy” was a late-80s feel-good anthem for positivity. The opening whistle tune is iconic with his style and the title of the song remains a staple in pop culture, even if people can’t remember the tune they will always remember to don’t worry and be happy.

Credits

Host: Tesfa Wondemagegnehu

Producer: Dan Nass

Writers: Andrea Blain and Scott Blankenship

Additional music selections: Jeffrey Yelverton

Executive Producer: Julie Amacher