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

TL; DR:

  • Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was inspired by a mystic who hasn’t spoken for years.
  • The song title 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 from the 1980s is incredibly happy. For example, Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is one of the happiest 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’

In a 2014 interview with The Canadian Press, McFerrin revealed that he came across a poster of Meher Baba with the quote “don’t worry, be happy”. Baba was a mystic from the Muslim Sufi tradition. He is perhaps best known for having taken 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 over, I didn’t understand all the lyrics and everything, but I was just singing the chorus and just improvising, playing with it a bit,” he recalls .

Meher Baba wearing a suit

Meher Baba | Bettmann / Contributor

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Bobby McFerrin finished the song while alone

McFerrin said he initially didn’t think much of the unfinished “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. “When I was in the studio recording [the album] simple pleasures“, it wasn’t even on the register as a piece, I didn’t even think about it”, he recalls. “It never even occurred to me until, when I was working on another piece and got stuck, I didn’t know what to do with it.”

McFerrin decided to have some space while he worked on the song. “I fired the engineer and everybody and went to the back and wrote the lyrics, called everybody back and sang it, and I think it all 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 piece, but I had no idea it was going to do anywhere near what it did in terms of sales and popularity,” he said. he reveals.

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” became a big hit. For two weeks he exceeded the Billboard Hot 100, remaining on the chart for a total of 26 weeks. In the United States, McFerrin is a true one-hit wonder, as none of his other songs have 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, remaining on the chart for 55 weeks. The song also appeared on the soundtrack of Tom Cruise’s film Cocktail.

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is one of the happiest songs of the 1980s, although most fans are unaware of its spiritual origins.

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