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Bobby McFerrin’s Songs for His Father

Vocal virtuoso Bobby McFerrin eulogizes his foremost influence with a collection of spirituals

Bobby McFerrin
Bobby McFerrin (photo: Carol Friedman)

As if voices were colors, 10-time Grammy winner Bobby McFerrin has spent much of the past decade exploring every possible shade and combination. His last two releases, Beyond Words and VOCAbuLarieS, were grand experiments involving the painstaking layering of dozens of voices to craft kaleidoscopic tone poems.

Now, the 63-year-old is reverting to a simpler yet equally vibrant palette, one that takes him back to childhood. McFerrin’s new spirityouall (Sony Masterworks) is first and foremost a tribute to his father, who died in 2006 at age 85. A gifted opera singer-in fact the first African-American signed to the Metropolitan Opera Company-Robert McFerrin Sr. was also a superb interpreter of spirituals. It was his 1957 recording, “Deep River” and Other Classic Negro Spirituals, that inspired his son to shape his own album of spirituals.

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