“Here’s a little song I wrote. You might want to sing it note for note. Don’t worry, be happy.” – Bobby McFerrin
When I was a teenager in a soul group, I wrote some very depressing lyrics — probably because I was so depressed. The worst was when I used the last line of the chorus as the title, All the Fish that Missed the Sea. See what I mean? However, by the year 1988, I was happy enough to be able to really appreciate Bobby McFerrin’s uplifting song, Don’t Worry, Be Happy, which became a worldwide phenomenon. What a contrast! Watch the official video here. It’s impossible not to smile even in these dark corona-times.
My wife, Most Beautiful One (MBO), and I took our daughters to see the Pickle Family Circus in 1982. Bill Irwin, an original member of the San Francisco circus, was in McFerrin’s video as was comedian and actor, Robin Williams, whose illness, tragically, overcame his ability to be happy. I am so grateful I was able to change my own life trajectory.
Robert Keith McFerrin Jr. (born March 11, 1950) is an American jazz vocalist. He is known for his solo performances and vocal techniques, such as singing fluidly with rapid changes in pitch. He has also conducted orchestras all over the world. In particular, I was pleased to learn that McFerrin was born the same year as me and has also been married to his wife for a long time.
McFerrin said, “If I can bring joy into the world, if I can get people to stop thinking about their pain for a moment, or the fact that tomorrow morning they’re going to get up and tell their boss off… then I’ll be successful.”
We were disappointed that, because of COVID-19, our East Coast daughter and her family weren’t able to spend the month of July with us. So, I wanted to do something extra-special for MBO’s August 29 birthday. I ended up hiding about 35 yellow post-it notes with short loving and funny messages all over the house—in the refrigerator, her dresser drawers, under the soap dish and even inside a roll of toilet paper. So far, she has only found 18! Well, 21 because she just read this. I was quite pleased to overhear her tell one of her sisters that it was impossible to feel sad when she found a missive on the vacuum cleaner that said, quite succinctly,“This sucks!”
Probably because of the early financial challenges we had to overcome, this is my favorite verse:
Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy
The landlord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don’t worry, be happy
At some point, McFerrin became disenamored with his famous song. He said, “It’s not that I don’t love the song. My songs are like my children: some you want around and some you want to send off to college as soon as possible.” I felt the same way about my impossible-to-comb curly hair, which eventually also went away.
Meanwhile, in the times we find ourselves, of course we all have deep worries. The challenge is to see our worries as opportunities for personal growth – as a call to action as opposed to a path to despair.
I can definitely relate to McFerrin’s belief that, “Music is still part of my spiritual life. Sometimes I sing my prayers. When I get audiences singing, I hope I’m helping them feel connected to something beyond themselves.” MBO and my chanting is definitely a rhythmic prayer and, especially when done with a group, connects us to something beyond and within ourselves. Now, that is something to sing about!
Speaking of singing, my band’s regular Sunday afternoon socially distanced acoustic sessions in our garage (Joe-mandolin, Dan-bass guitar, Dylan-guitar & me-harmonica) also give me a strong sense of connectedness. Here is a one-minute video of last week’s get together.
Thanks for reading, listening and staying safe out there!
Next week: Isaac Asimov & the Coronavirus
Other titles by Mike during Covid-19:
ABOUT MIKE LISAGOR – Mike Lisagor plays harmonica and sings in Good Karma Blues. He has written hundreds of magazine articles and blogs on a variety of business and Buddhist related topics. He is the author of “Romancing the Buddha,” which he adapted into a successful one-man show that he performed at Bainbridge Performing Arts and in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. His nature photographs have appeared in the Boston Globe, Bainbridge Island Magazine, Living Buddhism as well as in several local galleries. His latest graphic art project, “Reimagined Nature”, is in the lobby of New Motion Physical Therapy.