Our top 10 Bobby McFerrin songs list looks at the catalog of an American vocalist known for his creative jazz acapella vocals. Bobby McFerrin was born in 1950 in a family of musicians. His mother was the singer Sara Copper while his dad was Robert McFerrin, an operatic baritone. The first-ever known recording by the singer is his 1982 eponymous studio album. However, this doesn’t mark the time he started pursuing music.
Six years before the album was released, Bobby McFerrin spent adequate time perfecting his musical skills. Bobby McFerrin cut a different path for himself, creating a unique music style that has had him lauded among the best in his music genre. He tried to avoid music from other musicians to help build a unique band and ensure his vocals were original.
However, he already had in mind several vocal styles he wished to try despite making his signature vocals. Among his influences are jazz and classical music legend Keith Jarrett who Bobby McFerrin terms to be his influence. After the release of his debut album, Bobby McFerrin went on to perform with other artists.
He joined Herbie Hancock’s VSOP II in 1984, performing on stage several times as a horn player. Two years later, Bobby McFerrin starred in the voice of Santa Bear in Santa Bear’s First Christmas. It took Bobby his 1988 song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” to become a globally popular artist.
The song allowed Bobby McFerrin to explore music deeply. In the following year, he bagged a deal to compose music for the computer-animated short film Knick Knack. Bobby McFerrin was later featured in the score to the award-winning documentary Common Threads Stories from the Quilt. He later released a cover of “Pink Panther Theme” by Henry Mancini for use in the film Son of the Pink Panther.
Since 1994, Bobby McFerrin began regular touring in tons of symphony orchestras as a guest conductor. The singer would feature unique vocal improvisations to his classical pieces during his concerts. Bobby McFerrin remains one of the world’s best vocal percussionists living. He is also famed for his polyphonic overtone and scat singing. Throughout his musical career, Bobby McFerrin has collaborated with artists. Some of them include Yo-Yo Ma, Chick Corea, and Herbie Hancock.
Bobby McFerrin has released a total of eleven studio albums. However, three among them are collaborative releases with the aforementioned artists. He has also played released music as a sideman to Chico Freeman, Michael Hedges, Laurie Anderson, The Manhattan Transfer Wynton Marsalis, Yellowjackets, and Weather Report.
Bobby McFerrin has also won several Grammy Awards in several categories. All his Grammy Awards were issued in the ’80s, except one which he received in 1992 in the Best Jazz Vocal Performance. Here we present the best Bobby McFerrin songs of all time.
#10- The Garden
Ushering us to the top 10 Bobby McFerrin songs is the hit “The Garden.” The song is featured on Bobby McFerrin’s album Medicine Music (1990). Thanks to songs like the three-minute song “The Garden,” Bobby McFerrin’s brilliance in jazz was vivid for all to see. The album peaked at number one hundred and forty-six on the Billboard 200. Bobby McFerrin received a nomination for the Best Contemporary Jazz Performance.
“Blackbird” is one of the world’s most recorded songs of all time. The Beatles initially released the song on their White Album. Among artists who have covered the song include Sarah McLachlan, The Dandy Warhols, Bettye LaVette, Sarah Darling, and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Bobby McFerrin was not left behind having him showcase his amazing vocal control. “Blackbird” is one of his first songs to be recorded without overdubbing and or accompaniment. He featured the song on his album The Voice (1984).
#8- Ave Maria
The number eight-track on our top 10 Bobby McFerrin songs is his melodic composition “Ave Maria.” “Ave Maria” is a popular recording of the Latin prayer of the same title that dates back to 1853. Bobby McFerrin performed this timeless composition for his collaborative album with Yo-Yo Ma, Hush (1992). His almost perfect mellow vocals blend with Yo-Yo Ma’s magnificent cello tunes, making it one of his best releases.
#7- Say Ladeo
Vocabularies (2010) is one of the most challenging releases by Bobby McFerrin. The album saw the legendary vocalist collaborate with fifty singers in seven years. This goal was to create a virtual choir to take on jazz music.
Out of over a thousand four hundred songs, “Say Ladeo” is among the few that made it in his 2010 album. “Say Ladeo” finds the vocalist displaying his ambitions and sonic complexities. His signature playfulness blended with unique vocalization brings the true infectious vibe in most of the best Bobby McFerrin songs.
#6- Circle Song Six
Number six on our top 10 Bobby McFerrin songs is the hit “‘Circle Song Six.” The song is featured on Bobby McFerrin’s album Circlesongs (1997). This vocal jazz ballad finds the vocalist bringing on his improvised circle singing technique. Among the eight tracks on the album, “Circle Song Six” is the catchiest of all the circle songs.
#5- Drive My Car
“Drive My Car” is one of The Beatles’ most memorable musical gems. Bobby McFerrin took on this hit, releasing it on his album Simple Pleasures (1988). His version balances between jazz and reggae sounds. This is one of the few musical gems that he features the reggae sound that works perfectly for his vocals. The song is his next great release from his most successful album, Simple Pleasures (1988).
#4- Good Lovin’
Simple Pleasures (1988) is one of the most successful album releases by Bobby McFerrin. The album is home to our number four-song “Good Lovin’.” Initially, the song was penned by Arthur Resnick and Rudy Clark. “Good Lovin’” has been covered by multiple artists, including The Young Rascals, The Residents, and Mary Wells and of course The Grateful Dead. Bobby McFerrin gives a mesmerizing performance on this song. “Good Lovin’” sonically feels more inclined to a cappella music in which Bobby McFerrin’s vocals excel.
#3- ‘Round Midnight
Number three on our top 10 Bobby McFerrin songs is the hit “‘Round Midnight.” The song was initially composed and released by Thelonious Monk, a legendary American jazz pianist who starred in the ’40s. Bobby McFerrin added to the list of artists who have tried top Monk’s performance on this jazz standard.
He released the song on his collaborative album with pianist Chick Corea, Play (1992). Other notable recordings of the song were made by Jimmy McGriff, Andy Bey, Dexter Gordon, and Kenny Burrell. Bobby McFerrin received a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance in 1987, thanks to “‘Round Midnight.”
#2- Thinkin’ About Your Body
One of the best original songs by Bobby McFerrin is “Thinkin’ About Your Body.” He featured the song on his album Spontaneous Inventions (1986). In this song, Bobby McFerrin switches between falsetto and modal registers. This helps him create polyphonic effects, which he is famously known for. The percussive effects created by tapping his chest and sounds from his mouth add glamor to this song.
#1- Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Number one on our top 10 Bobby McFerrin songs list is the hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” The song is featured on Simple Pleasures (1988). Bobby McFerrin was the first artist to have a cappella song reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The song also managed to reach number two on the UK Singles Chart.
This globally successful a cappella ode was inspired by a poster Bobby McFerrin saw about Meher Baba featuring the phrase. It took the four words on the song’s title to give the world an all-time philosophy towards a happy life. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, taking the position from Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child o’ Mine.”
Photo: Erinc Salor from Amsterdam, Netherlands, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Common
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