Bobby McFerrin

Bobby McFerrin ( born March 11, 1950 in New York City, New York) is an American musician, conductor and vocal artist, who has an extremely variable voice, which he used to imitate instruments.

Life and work

Youth and Education

Bobby McFerrin is the son of Robert and Sara McFerrin. Bobby's father was in the 1950s, the first African-American opera singer (baritone ) at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Sara McFerrin was soprano and was a professor of singing. She gave up her career, however, to support her husband can. Bobby's favorite place as a child was under the piano when his father gave singing lessons. Although his father never gave him lessons he learned from him by pure listening a lot about music. With six years Bobby McFerrin received - first at the Juilliard School of Music - piano lessons and learned in the next few years, clarinet and flute playing.

As during the high school years, he studied as a student at California State University at Sacramento and Cerritos College on piano.

My first professional experience

After graduation, he was as an instrumentalist member of the Ice Follies, after which he toured with some top 40 bands. Only at the age of 27 years when he was a member of the band Astral Projection, he began performing as a singer. The comedian Bill Cosby caused that McFerrin was invited in 1980 as a singer for the Playboy Jazz Festival. His appearance in 1981 at the Kool Jazz Festival led to the recording contract.

Debut album and reactions

Already with his debut album as a singer, Bobby McFerrin (1982 ), he was chosen for its artistic vocal art ( with time but funny rapid switching between breast and falsetto ) in the professional world. At that time, invited him Joachim -Ernst Berendt for New Jazz Meeting Baden- Baden, where he participated in a Vocal Summit with the advanced vocalists Jeanne Lee, Urszula Dudziak and Jay Clayton and Lauren Newton. For Another Night in Tunisia with Jon Hendricks and The Manhattan Transfer in 1985, he received two Grammys. The next albums, on which he sang solo, are The Voice (1984) and Spontaneous Inventions (1985). The song Do not Worry, Be Happy ( 1988), based on a quote from Meher Baba, brought him worldwide recognition. The album Simple Pleasures (1988 ), on which is located the hit, has sold over ten million copies worldwide and led to the same four Grammys. In 1989 he contributed the music for the documentary Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt at. During this time he also founded Voicestra, first with Lyle Mays and Jack DeJohnette, from which developed a twelve-man a cappella singing group.


Since the 1990s, he worked successfully with other well-known musicians of jazz, such as pianist Chick Corea (Play, 1992), or the classics, such as cellist Yo- Yo Ma ( Hush 1992). In 1996 an album with the Yellowjackets and another with Corea. 2003 a television movie was shot about him: Bobby McFerrin & Chick Corea - We play - a musical friendship, the preparation shows a concert of the two at the Verbier Music Festival in Switzerland, as they, along with a youth orchestra, the piece Spain by Chick Corea rehearse. The film was broadcast by various programs on German television.

Remarkable for its handling of the Ave Maria by Bach / Gounod, in which he makes himself interprets the Bach prelude vocal and parallel to sing the audience the melody by Gounod. He also appeared as a guest vocalist on projects in Dizzy Gillespie, Bob Dorough and Laurie Anderson. In 2009, he led his opera Bobble - lists so we can really hear with 20 professional singers from Europe in the Roman theater of Kaiseraugst on.

Conducting activities

McFerrin conducted since the year 1990. It is, first, he had been asked rather for fun, if he wanted to direct again. Then he then conducted the conducting with increasing seriousness. By his own account he had a lesson with the conductor Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa. To date, he has conducted various orchestras worldwide, of which there are some audio and video recordings before. On 25 May 2004 McFerrin conducting the enlargement of the European Union, the Vienna Philharmonic. The program included pieces from the works of classical music by composers from eight European nations. On 5 June 2010 he performed at the closing concert of Sing - Day of Song in the Veltins - Arena in Gelsenkirchen in the context of RUHR.2010 project - European Capital of Culture on.


McFerrin was a lecturer at various universities, as well as a visiting professor at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin.

Private life

He is married to his wife Debbie since 1975 and has three children.


Sideman recordings


  • Best Jazz Vocal Performance, male
  • Best Jazz Vocal Performance, male
  • Best Jazz Vocal Performance
  • Best Recording for Children
  • Record of the Year
  • Song of the Year
  • Best Pop Vocal Performance, male
  • Best Jazz Vocal Performance
  • Best Jazz Vocal Performance