July 12, 2013 in Features

McFerrin album pays tribute to father

John Carucci Associated Press

NEW YORK – For Bobby McFerrin, breaking new ground has always been synonymous with his music.

His concerts are a mixed bag drawing from jazz, classical, blues, and numerous other styles. He’s performed unaccompanied, scatting and riffing with his four-octave range, and at times even uses his entire body to make percussive sounds.

Yet most people know him for the feel-good a cappella tune “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” even though the 63-year-old singer says he hasn’t played the song in its entirety since 1988.

“The fans that come to my shows are excited with the music that I’m making, so they understand when I don’t play it,” McFerrin says.

The 10-time Grammy Award-winning musician recently released his 14th album, “spirityouall,” a CD that’s dedicated it to the legacy of his father, former Metropolitan Opera star Robert McFerrin Sr.

The senior McFerrin, who died at age 85 in 2006, had a distinguished career as both a performer and educator. He also provided the singing voice for Sidney Poitier in the 1959 film version of “Porgy and Bess.”

The new record combines a unique selection of Americana, covering such classics as “Every Time I Feel the Spirit,” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” as well as Negro spirituals.

“I wanted to honor him with some of the music he was known for,” he says.

McFerrin remembers his father as a kind yet tough man, especially when it came to his students. “He was nice, but he wouldn’t sugarcoat anything,” McFerrin remembers.

“If a student had him for a private lesson, it would be doubtful that they would finish the song by the time the lesson ended. He would pick apart everything they did, and while it was frustrating, they would become better singers. I’ve seen my father turn decent voices into very good ones by his technique.”

McFerrin is currently on tour in support of the new record.

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