September 25 – Bobby Wonders Why This Was His One Hit

September 25 is designated “National One Hit Wonder Day” so in honor of that we look at one of the best examples of that from the 1980s. Don’t worry, this day shows your dreams can come true – but maybe also become your nightmare! Bobby McFerrin was at #1 on Billboard this day in 1988 with “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

The bumper-sticker philosophy knocked Guns’N’Roses out of the top spot and also went to the top in Canada. Quite a shift in gears there – from one of the few heavy metal #1s to a wacky, acapella one driven by whistling! He got the idea from a philosophy espoused by Indian spiritualist Meher Baba, who counted Pete Townshend among his followers. “It’s pretty neat philosophy in four words,” McFerrin says. One which won McFerrin Grammys for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Male. One would think this would be a wonderful thing, but McFerrin might have had regrets. He’s a pretty well-respected jazz pianist and singer, who’d won three-straight Best Jazz Vocal Performance Grammys before (by now he’s collected 10 Grammys in total) and had worked on records for the likes of Al Jarreau, Herbie Hancock and Chick Correa. But after this song, he has largely been written off as a novelty act – a rich one though, given the revenue from this gold single and its use in commercials and the Cocktail movie.

It wasn’t that movie’s only cheery contribution to the top of the charts. A few weeks later the Beach Boys had a remarkable comeback with their first #1 since the ’60s with “Kokomo” off the same soundtrack.


12 thoughts on “September 25 – Bobby Wonders Why This Was His One Hit

  1. Badfinger (Max)

    The first time I heard it I didn’t know exactly what to think of it…then it started to annoy me because I heard it just too many times. I gotta say though…it’s positive!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed! I had the single, but yes, it was like a novelty song that initially was just wonderful and fun, but after maybe 8 weeks on the charts it got very cloying and eventually became kind of ironically cool again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Badfinger (Max)

        Yea…if you were in a terrible mood…this was the last thing you would want to hear at times lol. I guess it’s better to have positive anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. In a way it’s sad since it’s definitely a happy song. It actually made me smile when I heard it for the first time. The second and third times were still okay. Afterwards, it increasingly started to annoy me.

    Also, you just couldn’t escape the bloody tune. Back then, every time I listened to my favorite mainstream radio station back in Germany, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was on. That really killed the song entirely for me.

    It’s unfortunate it damaged Bobby McFerrin’s reputation. Well, at least it helped him pay some bills!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yep. I had the single too, but by about a month in I never played it and didn’t want to hear it on radio, it so omnipresent and got cloying quickly. McFerrin certainly thinks it hurt his career but I think he may be wrong… besides earning him money and clout to perhaps get bigger budgets for future records, it probably earned him at least SOME new fans of his ‘serious’ work who hadn’t heard of him before.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Centerfold’, “don’t Worry Be Happy’…ahh the 80s, golden age for whistling songs! One of those instantly happy, catchy songs that was destined to get instantly annoying and cloying after about a month at #1.

      Liked by 1 person

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