How a Famous Mystic Inspired Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’


Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was inspired by a mystic who did not speak for years.
The title of the song appeared on a poster before the song was written.
McFerrin didn’t expect “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” to be a hit.

Bobby McFerrin | Joel Selvin / Contributor

A lot of the best music of the 1980s is incredibly happy. For example, Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” s one of the most joyous songs of all time. McFerrin revealed he had to be alone when he wrote the song.

How a poster inspired Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’

During a 2014 interview with The Canadian Press, McFerrin revealed he came across a poster depicting Meher Baba alongside the quote “don’t worry, be happy.” Baba was a mystic from the Sufi Muslim tradition. He is perhaps most known for taking a vow of silence for 44 years.

At first, McFerrin only had a fraction of the song. “I would do it in clubs, it wasn’t finished, I didn’t have all the lyrics and stuff figured out but I would just sing the refrain and just improvise, playing with it a little bit,” he recalled.

Meher Baba | Bettmann / Contributor

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Bobby McFerrin finished the song while he was alone

McFerrin said he initially didn’t think much about the unfinished “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” “When I was in the studio recording [the album] Simple Pleasures,’ it wasn’t even on the docket as a tune, I wasn’t even considering it,” he remembered. “It never even came to my mind until, while I was working on some other piece and I got stuck, I couldn’t figure out what to do with it.”

McFerrin decided to have some space while he worked on the song. “I dismissed the engineer and everybody and I went in the back and I wrote out the lyrics, I called everyone back and I sang it, and I think the whole thing took about 45 minutes,” he said.

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How ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ performed on the charts in the United States

McFerrin discussed his expectations for the track. “I thought it was kind of a nifty tune but I had no idea it was going to do anywhere near what it did as far as sales and popularity,” he revealed.

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” became a major hit. For two weeks, it topped the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for 26 weeks in total. In the United States, McFerrin is a true one-hit wonder, as none of his other songs charted on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” appeared on the album Simple Pleasures. The album peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200, staying on the chart for 55 weeks. The song also appeared on the soundtrack of Tom Cruise’s movie Cocktail.

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Source:: Showbiz Cheat Sheet


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