WGBH Openvault

Basic Black; Bobby McFerrin’s Master Class


License Clip

More material is available from this program at the WGBH Archive. If you are a researcher interested in accessing the collection at WGBH, please email archive_requests@wgbh.org.

Undigitized item: Request Digitization

Untranscribed item: Request Transcription

Basic Black
Bobby McFerrin’s Master Class
Program Number


Series Description

THe series was formerly known as Say Brother. Series title change as of 1/8/1998. This series is black produced and is one of public television's longest-running series that is rooted in and reflects the culture, concerns, achievements and history of people of African descent. Also includes controversial issues, African American artists, and events of special interest to the African American community.

Series release date: 1/8/1998

Program Description

Conductor and musician Bobby McFerrin conducts a master class with local a capella group, Faith in Action. In an extraordinary and unique experience, McFerrin and Faith in Action meet and create amazing music together. In addition, BASIC BLACK talks with McFerrin about his life, philosophies on music, and future projects.

Grammy Award-winning performer Bobby McFerrin recently visited the ’GBH studios and shared some personal stories with Basic Black Host Darren Duarte. McFerrin was also joined by the Boston-based a capella group, Faith in Action, and together they recorded a special live performance for Basic Black.

Bobby McFerrin is widely recognized by his popular hit, "Don't Worry, Be Happy." "However, to judge him by that one song is like evaluating all automobiles by the Yugo. In reality, his brilliance as an innovative vocalist, writer and conductor far exceeds his mainstream appeal," claims Darren Duarte.

Bobby McFerrin has been called the most important a capella singer of our time. McFerrin’s use of his voice lends literal meaning to the "voice as an instrument." This jazz vocalist has such a range and technique that his voice inspires and amazes audiences everywhere.

Born to two classical singers in New York City on March 11, 1950, Bobby McFerrin began studying musical theory at age 6, shortly before his family relocated to Los Angeles. It was not until 1977 that he was inspired to become a singer. He released his debut album, Bobby McFerrin in May 1982.

After touring with his own band and collaborating with such jazz artists as Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis, McFerrin took a major step in 1983 when he began unaccompanied concertizing. This led to a solo tour of Germany where the live album The Voice was recorded. This album showcased McFerrin's pioneering a cappella excursions.

Through the 1980's, he expanded his circle of collaborators and his award winning discography, working with Garrison Keillor, Jack Nicholson, Weather Report's Joe Zawinul, Manhattan Transfer (on Another Night in Tunisia which won two Grammies) and, for Spontaneous Inventions (1986), Herbie Hancock, Jon Hendricks, Wayne Shorter, and Robin Williams. He achieved unparalled, commercial success as a one-man vocal ensemble with his multi-tracked, multi-platinum album Simple Pleasures (1988), which included the worldwide, chart-topping single and video "Don't Worry Be Happy."

The 1990 release of Medicine Music, demonstrated McFerrin's skills as an orchestrator, especially in his work with his group Voicestra. It was with that ten-voice group that he appeared on "Evening at Pops", (where with the Boston Pops he also made his television debut as a conductor.) McFerrin's other recordings include Hush (1992), a duet album with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Also released in 1992 was a new jazz album, Play, which featured McFerrin and pianist Chick Corea in a mix of standards and original collaborations that won McFerrin his 10th Grammy Award. His 1993 on-camera, five voice a cappella rendition of Henry Mancini's "Pink Panther" won him wide acclaim and another Grammy nomination.

In June of 1995, McFerrin released his first classical album Paper Music with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and it remains a classical bestsellers. The album features McFerrin conducting and singing with the music of Mendelssohn, Mozart, Bach, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky, among others.

Circlesongs, his 1997 release, refocused his energy on vocal music; specifically, spontanously improvised vocal music. With members of Voicestra, he recorded the album and performed the entire concert tour with no prepared material. All music was created in and of the moment, as McFerrin wove often tribal-sounding chants with his fellow spirit-singers.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Social Issues
Race and Ethnicity
Chicago: “Basic Black; Bobby McFerrin’s Master Class,” 05/10/2001, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed January 19, 2019, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_922E801034334AEF8CC12AA0306047C8.
MLA: “Basic Black; Bobby McFerrin’s Master Class.” 05/10/2001. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. January 19, 2019. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_922E801034334AEF8CC12AA0306047C8>.
APA: Basic Black; Bobby McFerrin’s Master Class. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_922E801034334AEF8CC12AA0306047C8
If you have more information about this item, we want to know! Please contact us, including the URL.