Bobby McFerrin: Born to Music

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Bobby McFerrin singing in the Bronx Feb. 4th


Bobby McFerrin is best known
for his #1 chart topping Grammy Award winning song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
 But Bobby has moved on since that song, far
surpassing it with a genius of talent that deserves every accolade he receives in
the music world he dearly loves.  Mr. McFerrin
has a truly amazing vocal gift in the genres of jazz, pop, spiritual, blues, classical
and R&B.  His musical prowess is so
appreciated that McFerrin is a ten-time Grammy Award winner.

While
McFerrin will be performing on Saturday, February 4th at Lehman
Center of the Performing Arts, located at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, in
the Bronx, NY, at 8:00 p.m., he can thrill your a.m. hours with his song “Sweet
in the Morning,” performed with Voicestra, a group he founded, comprised of 12
a cappella vocalists and whom he featured on his CD Medecine Music.  Bobby and Voicestra also released
Circlesongs, a Sony Classical album of meditative works comprised of eight improvisational
tunes steeped in Middle Eastern and African tradition.  Via the classical genre
Bobby’s version of Stravinsky Minuetto & Finale Pulcinella Suite and
Vivaldi Concierto en Sol Menor (G Minor) had me enraptured by the beauty of his
vocals and music composition.
To claim
that Bobby McFerrin knows his way around all forms of music with ease and pure
genius is no understatement.

This writer was
not as familiar with the music of Bobby McFerrin outside of “Don’t Worry, Be
Happy,” when I began this article. 
However, I have resolved to remedy my lack of exposure to McFerrin’s
music, after visiting YouTube, which opened up a brand new world for me in reference
to the music of Bobby McFerrin.  I only
had to close my eyes to be transported into the melodic harmonies of the
Islands or carried away to South Africa. 
Bobby’s music awakened an innate rhythm within me that hoisted my
imagination into the tropics, savannahs, deserts, and grasslands of the
Motherland via his song “The Garden,” also on his Medecine Music CD.

McFerrin is the
master of improvisation.  His vocal
skills, his creativity, diversity and four-octave range has been known to turn live
audiences into a virtual orchestra as he leads the crowd down the pentatonic
scale.  His music is unique, inspiring,
as well as haunting as is emphasized in Bobby’s “The Elephant’s Child.”

Bobby McFerrin was born to
music.  His soul chose it when he entered
life in 1950.  What else could he be destined
for having been born to two classically trained parents.  In fact, his father, Robert McFerrin, Sr., was the first African-American male to
perform solo at the Metropolitan Opera. 
 So was it any wonder that Bobby took to music
like a fish to water.  At 8 years old, he
began playing piano and clarinet.  Versatile
in all music genres, Bobby listened to the music of Count Basie, Duke
Ellington, James Brown, Sergio Mendes, George Gershwin, Led Zeppelin and Brazil
’66, et al.  He tried it all: bands,
cabaret, even dance. Then at 27 years of age, Bobby declared himself a
singer.  Bill Cosby gave him his first
big break by arranging for this ‘human orchestra’ known as Bobby McFerrin to
perform at the Playboy Jazz Festival. 
The Kool Jazz Festival followed, leading to a contract with Elektra
Records.  By 1984, he was ready to
release his first solo vocal jazz album which was titled The Voice, wherein he recorded with no accompaniment or
overdubbing.  

 Oftentimes, McFerrin has performed
spontaneously without rehearsal, using his own body to produce percussion
sounds, while singing various vocal parts, employing his arsenal of vocal
techniques.  

 Mr. McFerrin won Grammys
for
“’Round Midnight” with Herbie Hancock, “What Is This Thing Called Love?” “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and “Spontaneous
Inventions,” etc.  After the release of
another of his masterpieces “Simple Pleasures
,” Mr. McFerrin demonstrated
he had other talents and became an orchestra conductor.  He started his
conducting debut with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and led dozens of world
orchestras thereafter.  In 1990, the talented performer recorded the first
of two albums with Chick Corea, entitled “Play.”  1992 saw a collaboration with cellist Yo-Yo Ma,
the outcome of which gave the world Hush,
a set of Bobby’s original and classical standards.  His teaming with YellowJackets, a jazz fusion band resulted in Bang! Zoom.  By1994, he was named creative director of the
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. In
2010, Bobby released his first new album in eight years, VOCAbuLarieS, in collaboration with composer and
vocalist Roger Treece, a Voicestra
member.

Bobby McFerrin has appeared in a number of films and television programs, including
NBC’s The Sing Off
He has performed on A Prairie Home
Companion
and has sung the themes for Son of the Pink Panther and
The Cosby Show
.  McFerrin has been profiled on 60 Minutes and Nightline.

 For
tickets to hear Bobby McFerrin on Saturday, February 4th at 8:00 p.m.,
call the Lehman Center Box Office at 718.960.8833
or go on line at www.LehmanCenter.org


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