100 Days of Art – Day 28: The Roberts McFerrin

Many of you have probably heard of Bobby McFerrin, below, noted singer, musician, and one-man voicechestra/multi-octave singer, beat-boxer, and, conductor. However, did you know that he’s actually Robert McFerrin, Jr. and his father was noted baritone Robert McFerrin (1921-2006)?

Robert Keith “Bobby” McFerrin, Jr.

Robert Keith McFerrin, Sr.

No, well sit back and take a listen to both men’s work.

Robert McFerrin was a noted classical singer who reached his peak fame in the 1950s. He performed and recorded numerous classics, and was the first African American to sing a title role at the Metropolitan Opera house. (No, that wasn’t Sidney Poitier’s voice.) He voiced the lead vocals in Otto Preminger’s version of the film.

Born in 1921 in Arkansas as one of 11 children born an itinerant preacher–he lived to pave roads for black musicians previously not thought possible. See the YouTube video below for a great biography on Robert.

McFerrin singing “Pari siamo” from Verdi’s “Rigoletto.”

In 1958, he recorded an album of spirituals “Classic Negro Spirituals” …

… which his son later paid homage to in his album, “spirityouall.”

Bobby began his own illustrious career as a musician, trying to distinguish himself from his father, mother, sister, and other singers in the family. Inevitably, just as his father was drawn toward his own gifts, taking up singing secular music against his father’s wishes, Bobby gave in and started singing instead of just playing piano. I could fill pages trying to describe what’s he’s done, but I’ll serve you and him better by simply letting you fall … inevitably .. fall in love with his voice.

My favorite, “Sightless Bird”

“Moondance” It’s hard outdo an original song that was done brilliantly by its composer (Van Morrison) but Bobby comes damned close. In it, before launching into a trumpet-like improvisation, he sangs, showing the glorious resonance he inherited from his famous dad.

“I’ve Got a Feeling”

Bobby’s gift is his love of music, his humor, and his natural gift for teaching, as here:

or here: (Crappy picture, PHENOMENAL music)

For a Robert McFerrin playlist, click here or go to YouTube and type “Robert McFerrin classical” or “… spirituals.”

For an interview with Bobby McFerrin wherein he talks about his career, his dad, and more, take a listen to npr radio’s interview or check out their Bobby McFerrin page. That’s right–page. You know you’ve made it when you have a damned npr Page.


15 thoughts on “100 Days of Art – Day 28: The Roberts McFerrin

  1. Ave Maria was wonderful. I shall have to come back and listen to the rest of the clips here. Incredible talent from father and son. Makes me feel very humble to experience someone else so engrossed and in love with their all. Just like I feel with the way you express your own talents.


  2. Thank you very much! Also listen to his children, Taylor, Jevon, and Madison.
    I’m hoping for a “spirityouall” album – volume 2…


  3. Lovely post! Thanks for sharing. I discovered Bobby McFerrin early on in his career and was hooked immediately. Nice to learn some of his backstory. I’d be honored to repost this one, if you don’t mind…. Thanks again!


  4. Reblogged this on The Practice of Practice and commented:
    I first discovered Bobby McFerrin early in his career and was hooked immediately with his playfulness and command of his voice. I was astounded to learn that his first public concert as a singer happened when he was in his 30s. Here’s a great blog post from Bill Jones, Jr. with some of McFerrin’s backstory.


  5. Pingback: Days of Art #41: The Fallacy of the Defining Moment | Just Us

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