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Be Happy: McFerrin to Perform at MLK Georgetown-Kennedy Center Event

Bobby McFerrin Photo

Bobby McFerrin is the latest artist to perform during Georgetown and the Kennedy Center's tribute to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Past performers include fellow Grammy Award-winners actor Ossie Davis, opera vocalist Jessye Norman, and singers Brian McKnight, Aretha Franklin, India.Arie and Patti LaBelle.

December 14, 2011 – Ten-time Grammy Award winner Bobby McFerrin will perform Jan. 16 during the Georgetown and Kennedy Center for Performing Arts tribute honoring the life and legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

McFerrin – a singer, conductor, songwriter and dancer – is best known for his No. 1 worldwide hit single “Don’t Worry Be Happy.”

He will serve as the featured artist during the free, ticketed Let Freedom Ring tribute at the Kennedy Center at 6 p.m.

“We are proud to include Bobby McFerrin among the extraordinary artists who have joined us for this special tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia.  “It is a privilege to share his talent and innovative approach to music with the wider D.C. community in celebration of the legacy of Dr. King.”

Musical upbringing

McFerrin's parents were classically trained singers. Robert McFerrin Sr., his father, provided the
singing voice for Sidney Poitier in the movie Porgy and Bess. The elder McFerrin was also the first male African-American male soloist to sing with the Metropolitan Opera.

The younger McFerrin has incorporated into his work a wide variety of musical traditions that include jazz, pop, R&B, classical and world music.

In addition to his solo vocal explorations, the vocalist has partnered with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Chick Corea and Ladysmith Black Mambazo and has performed in Russia, Brazil, Japan, Abu Dhabi and other countries.


From Mozart to Beatles

Hush (1992), with Ma, is his bestselling duo album. His most recent choral album is VOCAbuLarieS (2010).

Other albums include The Mozart Sessions (1996) with pianist Chick Corea, and Paper Music (1995), featuring musicians from the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. He has also conducted the Vienna Philharmonic and created interpretations of Beatles songs such as “Blackbird” and “Drive my Car.”

He is also known for his Circlesongs album for which he invited audience members to participate in an improvisational music process.

Unique contribution

No stranger to Georgetown, McFerrin spent fall 2003 at the university as a Father Royden B. Davis, S.J., Visiting Professor.

“Bobby McFerrin made a unique contribution to our community during his semester as a visiting professor within our Department of Performing Arts,” DeGioia said. “He brought energy, talent and a deep connection to music from which our students in all aspects of the performing arts benefitted – music, theater and dance.” 

During his time at Georgetown, he held public workshops for singers and dancers, a seminar and concert with Georgetown’s a capella groups and a workshop with laboratory physics professor Andre de Vincenz, who taught The Science of Sound and Music course.

In Good Company

Past performers of the MLK tribute include actor and civil rights activist Ossie Davis, opera singer Jessye Norman, acclaimed mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, 1994 Kennedy Center honoree Aretha Franklin, Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter India.Arie and Grammy Award-winning singer Patti LaBelle.

Free tickets to the event are required, and may be picked up starting at 5 p.m. on the day of the concert. The tickets will be distributed two per person on a first-come first-served basis in line in the Kennedy Center’s Hall of Nations.


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