A week ago my mind was blown when I attended a concert my childhood music idol Bobby McFerrin did in Reno. If his name is not familiar, you will recognize his most famous song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” McFerrin has been on the edge of musical creativity since the mid eighties, earning 10 Grammy’s along the way. The best feature about the performance to me was his ability to interact with the audience. The entire show, McFerrin never lost his smile, and laughed at band members antics or inside jokes while he was soloing. I had never heard a vocalist manage to incorporate uncontrollable laughter into a musical improvisation line. At one point, Bobby handed a microphone to a baby in the front row and traded solos with the babbling baby. By the end of a few trades, the baby was inherently babbling in the correct key. Everywhere Bobby McFerrin goes he teaches people about the musical nature of the human spirit.
Here is one example of him creating music with an untrained crowd, or as Bobby McFerrin calls it, “Playing the Crowd”:
For over 20 years, Bobby McFerrin has been pushing the boundaries of what acapella and vocal music can do. That is perhaps the most inspirational part of his story. No matter what the mainstream jazz or vocal musicians say, he sings his style, and that has made him an icon. I’ll leave you with a fun arrangement he did of “Blackbird” by The Beatles.