Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Four words I live by and highly recommend you do too. Artist Bobby McFerrin sings one of the best songs ever in his album Simple Pleasures, the song is called: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” The song was released in 1988 and won 2 grammys and if you haven’t heard it then I’m not sure what you’ve been doing all your life. It seems like every human is born knowing the classic whistle and hum from this song.

The overall theme of this song is a simple yet very powerful. The title sums it up by stating Don’t Worry, Be Happy but additional lyrics throughout the song highlight connecting ideas like how trouble in everyone’s life is guaranteed but by worrying it only becomes worse. He also explains multiple unfortunate situations followed by advice to stay positive and happy because having feelings of worry or negativity will only make things worse. An experience this song deepens is life itself because it provides generally applicable advice to peoples problems with a theme many people do not hear. Society frowns upon people who do not appear to care or worry about their lives problems and often deem such people as lazy, detached or foolish. But the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” motto doesn’t mean you don’t care about your life and fail to accomplish anything, it simply means you operate with a positive attitude and don’t worry about dumb stuff. I think we all could take a page out of McFerrin’s book and worry about what truly matters, forget the rest, and be happy.

The first poetic device McFerrin uses to enhance the songs meaning is a motif. Obviously the motif is “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” which accounts for 50% of the lyrics used in this song. His repetition of this phrase enhances the poetic theme of his song by instilling this mantra in every listeners mind. You cannot listen to this song without recalling the most used phrase/the title and in doing this I think McFerrin is trying to teach us that with all problems in life, you must try to block out all possible distractions, excuses or reason to NOT be happy and instead, stop worrying and just be happy.

McFerrin states:

Ain't got no cash, ain't got no style
Ain't got no gal to make you smile
But don't worry, be happy
'Cause when you worry your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down

The imagery here of having no cash, no style, no gal and no smile is not only a catchy and amazing rhyme scheme but its great imagery. I can perfectly picture what type of man is lacking all of those things and in doing this McFerrin establishes fear and sadness in my heart because I worry that one day I may be that man. He quickly readjusts my thought process with the next lines, encouraging the listener to not worry and be happy while also teaching selflessness by stating that if you are sad, you will make everyone else sad. This furthers his theme of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by explaining to listeners that sadness will bring everyone down and thus, if you don’t worry and just be happy not only do you help yourself you help everyone else. He’s teaching listeners peace and love for oneself and society.

Lastly, his lines:

Listen to what I say 
In your life expect some trouble
When you worry you make it double

These lines exhibit simple allegory which alludes that worrying only makes your problems worse. Double trouble. This is a very true theme in that most would agree that worrying about things you cannot control is a waste of energy. On the flipside, worrying about things you CAN control doesn’t change anything either and only makes you feel as though you have more trouble. Execute on what you can control and don’t worry, be happy. This song is poetry because it is “the most condensed and concentrated form of literature, saying the most in the fewest number of words.” This really holds true in this song because although most of the lyrics are “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, as a listener I interpret this simple words to mean so many thinks such as be grateful, be selfless, peace, love, happiness and more.

In other words, every little thing will be alright.

3 thoughts on “Don’t Worry, Be Happy

  1. EMMET S

    I agree with you, this song is very simple, but says a lot in a few words. McFerrin talks about economic status, relationships, being depressed or sad, and being to worried in ten very short lines. To add, I think your interpretation is correct and i enjoyed your focus on being positive.



    I totally agree with this analysis on the song ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy” as I listen to this song already and have known it for a while now. A classic song that can be heard in some classic films also really portrays a certain era people used to live in. This song is all over the place in terms of lyrics as it covers many different aspects.


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