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Bobby McFerrin: Beyond Words

Bobby McFerrin

Surely no one appreciates the sweet curse of the monster hit better than Bobby McFerrin. Mention McFerrin’s name in casual conversation and you’re sure to hear him dismissed as a one-hit wonder who was briefly hot in 1988 with his peppy paean to positive thinking, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” on Simple Pleasures. Little do most folks realize that he ranks among the most dynamically diverse performers on the planet. As accomplished a composer, conductor and producer as he is a singer, McFerrin is an artist of incomparable flexibility who is equally at home with jazz, soul, classical or blues.

A master of vocal acrobatics, McFerrin can bend and shape his four-octave range to suit any occasion. Like Cassandra Wilson, he never luxuriates in musical snobbism, appreciating all genres equally, and is remarkably skilled at reinterpreting contemporary pop hits. Twenty years ago, his earthy treatment of “Moondance” swapped the coy playfulness of Van Morrison’s original for overt sexual hunger. Since then, the 10-time Grammy winner has practiced comparable magic with the work of James Brown, Smokey Robinson and, most notably, Lennon and McCartney.

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