Bobby McFerrin: the sounds of a masterful entertainer

CarolFriedman5If you were at the Winspear Centre last night, and,  just after the show ended at 9:30 p.m.,  you were making up silly songs on the way home, you can rest assured one thing.

Bobby McFerrin was happy.

Because that’s the one thing he hopes his audience does on their way home. Not talk about him, or what he wore.

Make up songs. And if you were really creative, you made up musical instruments with your voice.

But Bobby wouldn’t be walking the streets looking in vehicles listening for songs. In an e-mail interview last week, he said he sticks pretty much to himself when he’s on the road.

“I do the show, I go home and get to sleep as early as I can,” he says. “I don’t hang out with people or see the sights. My first priority is doing my job, and it takes a lot of focus and inner quiet.”

On the day of a show Bobby spends the morning reading the Bible and then going for a sound check.

2011 Bobby McFerrin Grammy Prediction Classical Crossover Album - CassoneThen, like Tuesday night, the 64-year-old from Manhattan,  Put on a non-stop two-hour show as a marquee event as part of the Edmonton International Jazz Festival.

His interaction with the crowd was priceless, bringing up three audience members to sing. He asked their names, and then calmly said: “I’m Bobby.”

 After the show, before the encore, he asked for the house lights and conducted a Q and A.

Not only can the man make funny and methodical sounds with his voice Bobby can sing: absolutely. He’s voice soared as he sung Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me To The Moon, and then added some gospel tunes, including a slow, slow Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

His band was stellar, including Bobby’s daughter Madison on vocals. Clearly, the pitch doesn’t fall from the microphone. And there was Jeff Carney who has been playing bass with Bobby for 34 years.

Bobby received international recognition in 1988 for Don’t Worry Be Happy, a smash hit that won a Grammy. While it wasn’t on the Tuesday’s set list he shared how the song came about that was written, in fact, tounge-in-cheek.
Bobby saw a poster with the  slogan “Don’t Worry Be Happy” of spiritual leader Meyer Baba.

Meyer Baba.

Meyer Baba.

“I saw the poster and I was joking around, pretending to be the guru, acknowledging the fact that the slogan is totally ridiculous (of course we’d all worry if we couldn’t pay the rent) and profoundly true at the same time,” says Bobby. “My producer thought it was catchy and funny and said we should take a lunch break so I could finish the lyrics.
“We recorded it that afternoon. I can’t believe it’s been so successful, and it still amazes me that it means so much to so many people. I respect that. But writing that song doesn’t qualify me to pretend I’m an intellectual who can make pronouncements about society and the human condition!”
Still, it has become an iconic anthem — and, a catchy uplifting tune that still challenges us to look at the good side of things, even when the world seems to be caving in on us.

One couldn’t help but leave the show happy, which hopefully inspired some to sing “silly songs” on the way home. If so, Bobby McFerrin left Edmonton on a  happy note.


bobby-mcferrinTAIT LINKS

Bobby’s website


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