Saturday, September 24, 1988

Bobby McFerrin “Don’t Worry Be Happy” hit #1

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Bobby McFerrin

Writer(s): Bobby McFerrin (see lyrics here)

First Charted: July 30, 1988

Peak: 12 US, 11 CB, 11 RR, 7 AC, 11 RB, 2 UK, 12 CN, 17 AU, 2 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, 0.4 UK, 1.56 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 481.26 video, 282.57 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” gave Bobby McFerrin one of the most distinct one-hit wonders in chart history. It is the only completely a cappella song to top the Billboard Hot 100. SG It also evoked some rather polarizing opinions. Stereogum’s Tom Breihan referred to the “living symbol of bumper-sticker philosophy and Reagan-era complacency” SG as “”nuclear-charged dogshit.” SG

McFerrin comes from “a proud lineage of boundary-breaking musicians.” SG His mother, Sara, taught voice at Fullerton College in Los Angeles. His father, Robert, was an operatic baritone singer who became the first Black man to sing at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. It’s his voice, not Sidney Poitier’s, which is used in the 1959 film version of . Bobby started out in high school as a jazz keyboardist but would develop a reputation for expanding the idea of what the human voice could do – and often without any instrumentation at all.

The original plan for his 1988 album Simple Pleasures was that it would be all covers. However, he recorded “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” – a song he’d toyed around with for 4-5 years – FB at the suggestion of his manager Linda Goldstein. The phrase was popularized by Indian spiritual leader Meher Baba, who maintained a 44-year vow of silence and gained attention when Pete Townshend used his name for the Who song “Baba O’Riley.” Baba often wrote the phrase in correspondence. SG

McFerrin “aimed for the kind of simplicity and contentment that the phrase implied,” SG mentioning “a bunch of reasons why someone might want to worry — homelessness, litigious landlords, lack of style, lack of romantic companionship” SG but then advising “don’t worry, be happy.” It may have been meant as sature, but “when a song like that becomes a cultural phenomenon, it loses any sense of nuance that it might’ve had in the first place.” SG

The song received a huge boost from its appearance on the soundtrack for Cocktail, the 1988 movie starring Tom Cruise as a bartender. Its used in the movie when Cruise is in Jamaica tending bar, apparently because it sounded sufficiently Jamaican to the producers. Apparently fans were confused as well; there are more than 150 million views for the song on YouTube credited to the most famous Jamaican musician of all time – Bob Marley. The song also benefitted from a video in which “McFerrin mugs frantically with Robin Williams” SG and “pratfalling vaudeville comedian Bill Irwin.” SG


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Bobby McFerrin
  • FB Fred Bronson (2007). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (4th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 708.
  • SG Stereogum (5/26/2021). “The Number Ones” by Tom Breihan
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 10/17/2022; last updated 10/22/2022.

Saturday, September 10, 1988

Guns N’ Roses hit #1 with “Sweet Child O’ Mine”

Sweet Child O’ Mine

Guns N’ Roses

Writer(s): Axl Rose, Izzy Stradlin, Slash (see lyrics here)

Released: August 17, 1988

First Charted: June 11, 1988

Peak: 12 US, 13 CB, 12 GR, 12 RR, 7 AR, 6 UK, 7 CN, 11 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 3.4 US, 1.2 UK, 4.6 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 1188.0 video, 1544.19 streaming

Sweet Child O’ Mine

Sheryl Crow

Released: June 22, 1999

First Charted: June 26, 1999

Peak: 29 A40, 30 UK, 42 CN, 60 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 6.6 video, -- streaming

Awards (GNR):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Sheryl Crow):

About the Song:

In the late ‘80s, the music world hailed the return of raunchy rock with the rise of Guns N’ Roses. Ironically, though, it wasn’t a down and dirty account of drugs or depravity that launched the band, but a sentimental love song written for the daughter of musical icon Don Everly.

GNR frontman Axl Rose was dating Erin Everly when he penned what he called, “the first positive love song I’ve ever written.” FB Axl’s screech may not seem a natural fit for a romantic ballad, but it is “as eloquent – if not as ’poetic’ – as anything Joni Mitchell ever wrote” DM and “conveys an aching passion in a way that a smooth, polished performance simply couldn’t.” AMG

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to back it up with “one of the most memorable guitar intros in the history of rock & roll.” AMG Slash, the band’s guitarist, came up with the riff when he was just fiddling around. He dismissed it as silly SF and the band wasn’t impressed either. RS500 Bassist Duff McKagan said, “It was written in five minutes...It was kinda like a joke because we thought, ...It’s gonna be nothin’, it’ll be filler on the record.’” WK

However, when Rose heard Slash and Izzy Stradlin, the band’s other guitarist, working on the tune, a poem popped into his head which he’d shelved when it hit a dead end. FB The song proved to be much more than filler.

A third verse was cut from when producer Mike Clink voiced concern over the song’s running time. At his suggestion, though, the band did add the final “Where do we go? Where do we go now?” breakdown. The lines came about when Axl pondered the question aloud of exactly how they would end the song. WK

In 1998, Sheryl Crow recorded the song as a bonus cut on her Globe Sessions album and for the Big Daddy soundtrack.


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First posted 6/11/2012; last updated 7/14/2023.