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Bobby McFerrin Calls Himself A ‘Songcatcher’

Bobby McFerrin is a multi-faceted vocalist.  A 10-time Grammy winner, he has blurred the lines between pop music and fine art and has inspired a generation of a cappella singers.  He is best known for his hit, Don’t Worry, Be Happy, which explores the limits of the human voice.  But while he is certainly pleased with the song’s success, he does not want to be defined by it.

McFerrin describes himself as a “songcatcher.” He also continues to be a student of music, frequently traveling to other cultures to see what he can learn from their music.  While he often sings with instrumentalists, his favorite form of performance is solo. A master of improvisation, McFerrin frequently goes out on stage with no idea of what he is going to do, but instead, draws on the audience for inspiration with his vocal explorations.

McFerrin has strong ties with St. Louis.  His father, Robert McFerrin, Sr., went to high school here before earning international renown as an operatic baritone.  The elder McFerrin was the first African American to be offered a contract with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.  After he retired from his operatic career, he returned to St. Louis and continued singing for the remainder of his life.  In 1987, Bobby, his sister Brenda, and his father performed a special benefit concert together at The Sheldon Concert Hall.

Bobby McFerrin’s most recent album, SpiritYouAll, will be released next month.   SpiritYouAll is also the title of the concert he will perform for this year’s Sheldon Gala on April 25.  The program pays homage to his father and the generations of Americans who sang of our shared joy and pain through spirituals. 

Bobby McFerrin was Don Marsh’s guest on St. Louis on the Air to discuss his career, his St. Louis ties and his Sheldon Gala concert.  When Marsh asked him what’s next, he replied that he’d like to slow down his travel schedule and spend more time writing and for the first time, exploring himself as a song writer.

Related Event

The Sheldon Gala Presents Bobby McFerrin in "SpiritYouAll"
Thursday, April 25, 2013
8:15 p.m.
Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Blvd.
(314) 533-9900
Sheldon Website

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Mary Edwards is a producer for St. Louis Public Radio's broadcast program, "St. Louis Symphony."
Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
Don Marsh served as host of St. Louis Public Radio’s “St. Louis on the Air" from 2005 to 2019, bringing discussions of significant topics to listeners' ears at noon Monday through Friday. Don has been an active journalist for 58 years in print, radio and television. He has won 12 Regional Emmy Awards for writing, reporting, and producing. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, was inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame in 2013, and named “Media Person of the Year” by the St. Louis Press Club in 2015. He has published three books: his most recent, “Coming of Age, Liver Spots and All: A Humorous Look at the Wonders of Getting Old,” “Flash Frames: Journey of a Journeyman Journalist” and “How to be Rude (Politely).” He holds an honorary Doctor of Arts and Letters degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.