Don’t Worry, Be Happy
There were no cell phones then. No iPads or laptops. No internet. And your car radio (there was no Sirius) could tell you nothing! Not the song title, not the artist…nothing. Often times, neither did the DJ. So when we first heard it, we were clueless.
We heard it in my Supra, sun roof open, cruising down Dune Road, right by the Ponquogue Bridge. My boy Claudio was flipping the dial, searching for reception. You could pretty much forget your pre-sets from the City when you visited the Hamptons back then: they were useless, ’cause you could only get 2 or 3 stations, tops… sometimes. But he was tired of all my tapes-probably because we played them on the boom-box all day on the beach- so he was willing to put in the effort. He started at LIR, 92.7 back then, and meant to work his way up the dial to NEW, which you could sometimes get. But he turned the dial the wrong way! He tuned into Southhampton College’s station, LIU, by mistake. And he stopped the dial the minute he heard it.
“Whoa, WTF is that?” I inquired.
“I dunno’. Killer funny” Claudio replied.
“Are those all voices?” I asked.
“Shhhh” he snapped. “I wanna’ hear this.” So we listened. “Yeah, all voices.”
By then we had it. “Don’t worry, be happy” we sung in unison.
Then it was over. It’s a pretty long song, but we only caught part. And we wanted more. So first we noted the time on the dashboard clock. Then I drove to the Driver’s Seat in Southhampton to use the pay phone in front to call the college. We got through to someone at the radio station, asked what they had played at about X o’clock, and learned it was ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ by Bobby McFerrin. Pure acapella. No instruments, no electronics. As ‘throwback’ as possible!
“Never heard of him” we both thought. But we were so excited by the tune, if they sold stock in him, we would’ve bought plenty, right then and there.
We couldn’t wait to tell everyone at the house about this tune. And we wanted to sing it to them. But we didn’t know the words. So we made up our own:
Your girlfriend called
She says she’s late
Better set a wedding date
Don’t worry, be happy
Your eyes stayed white
But your face tanned brown
Now you look like a f’ing clown
Don’t worry, be happy
Many more. The whole house laughed. They loved the song without even hearing the recording. Or McFerrin’s sound effects.
The next weekend, I brought out the cassette single of the song, and we played it endlessly. As an added benefit, whenever we played it on the beach, we attracted a crowd of girls! Everyone loved it! And I guess that’s why it was later a number one song, and won a Grammy.
Today, we would’ve just YouTube searched it on one of our phones and played it in the car by Bluetooth. But all that work we had to do back then just added to the fun, and turned a simple song search into a story.