Today’s songs for A Song and a Story have a number of things in common:
- I first heard them while traveling – repeatedly during the trips – and forever associate the songs with that vacation.
- Both of these songs are arguably bad songs, and definitely annoying for many people to hear.
- Despite not being all that good to begin with and then overplayed to death I still love these songs. They’re so bad, they’re good.
The first song is the most notable – and notorious song – by jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin:
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
It’s the summer of 1988 and it was time for my family’s routine camping trip on Martha’s Vineyard. My mother couldn’t get time off work, but since my sister was now an adult, we decided to take our camping trip without parental supervision for the first time. As we drove around the island that week, we listened to the local radio station, WMVY, and heard several promos for an upcoming performance by Bobby McFerrin. The radio station also played his song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” repeatedly that week. We enjoyed the unique a cappella style and the funny lyrics, and it became the special song for that vacation.
As far as I knew, Bobby McFerrin was a local musician on Martha’s Vineyard and no one else would know who he was. I was pleased to know this “secret” song. A month passed, I went back to school, and then suddenly “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was EVERYWHERE. Seriously, if you weren’t around in America in the autumn of 1988, you have no idea how ubiquitous this song became. And just as quickly it became massively popular, it also became fashionable for people to hate “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
But for me, it will always be that special, obscure song, played on Martha Vineyard’s radio station.
The next song is from a decade later. In 1998, I spent six weeks traveling in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, and Paris. And for the majority of this trip, my daily activities were scored by the Danish pop band Aqua and their song:
“Doctor Jones” played from every loudspeaker as I circled Ireland. On buses, in restaurants, in pubs, and out on the street. I saw the band perform the song on Top of the Pops on the tv in the hostel common room. When it wasn’t playing on a stereo, it was playing in my head, and I even heard people involuntarily singing “a yippee ay yay, a wah-hah” under their breath. By any standard, this was a terrible song, but the people of Ireland and Britain had raised it to the top of their charts. I found it so comically bad, I started to like it ironically, and then non-ironically.
When I got back home to the States, my experience was the opposite of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Despite being a #1 song in Ireland and the UK, no one I knew in the US ever heard of it, nor would they ever hear of it unless I played it for them. And I did. I even put it on a mix tape for Susan, and I guess it didn’t offend her too much, since she still married me.
2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – A Song and a Story
If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:
- 2016: A journey through my neighborhood of Jamaica Plain in Boston.
- 2017: A spontaneous photograph each day.
- 2018: Watched and reviewed documentary movies.
And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:
- Book Reviews
- Movie Reviews
- Beer Reviews
- Music Reviews and Writing
- City Stories, expository writing about my experiences in various cities
And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.