Don't Worry, Be Happy

It’s funny how sometimes simple sayings can make complicated and confusing subjects somehow simpler, easier to handle; and yet, life can make them complicated no matter what.

A good example is the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” a 1988 a cappella song by musician Bobby McFerrin.  It was the first a cappella song to hit number one on the “Billboard Hot 100” chart; it was also Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

The song itself is really complicated, technically speaking; there were no instruments used and McFerrin did all the singing, sounds and background vocals, something for which he was known.  For anyone into music, you know that is not an easy thing to do.

The song is done in reggae style and in part the words go like this:

“Here's a little song I wrote

You might want to sing it note for note

Don't worry, be happy

In every life we have some trouble

But when you worry you make it double

Don't worry, be happy”

You can’t help but smile when you hear it, the tune is so hum-able and the message is so simple.  But unfortunately, even for a simple little song, life is more complicated than this.

The song was so popular that people began to identify McFerrin more for it and not for his other music; do you know of any other work he did? He was a gifted writer, composer, director and conductor but as far as most people know, “Don’t Worry” was his only song.

President George H.W. Bush used the song during his 1988 presidential campaign as his official campaign song; unfortunately, Bush hadn’t gotten permission, McFerrin didn’t approve and had to drop the song from his own performance repertoire in protest…complications.

Around 1992 false rumors stated that, ironically because of that song, McFerrin had taken his own life – more complications.

I’m not sure if we live in a complicated world; or if it’s just that some people want to make simple things way too complicated. Maybe both are true.

I think if the majority of people in the world had anything to say about it, they would take the simple road.

Unfortunately, the smaller percentage of people who control money, politics, business and other necessary-but-complicated aspects of life don’t, or can’t, always “keep it simple stupid.”

Maybe in simpler times, where there were far fewer people and barter was the coin of the realm rather than gold, life could be kept simpler. If I do this for you, you do that for me and we part friends.

When the world was not connected by instant communication, when what happened in the Far East or Middle East didn’t affect what happened in the Western World, then maybe life could be broken down into more individual choices on how to conduct oneself.

These days, it seems every decision has to be weighed against so many options, each with its own set of consequences, that making a simple decision isn’t possible.

However, I for one am going to start today, Friday Nov. 15, on my own personal campaign to simplify the world around me by simplifying me, and I invite Weekenders to join me on this crusade if you’d like.

Starting now, I am going to “keep it simple stupid.”  I am not going to over-complicate decisions.

If I have to go beyond three of four levels of options to arrive at a decision, I’ll just discard the whole idea as too complicated.

I am going to trust my instincts for simplicity and if I begin to be drawn into a complicated environment, I am going to hightail it out of there.

I am going to avoid people who I know to be over-complicators.  I will surround myself with like-thinking people like me who yearn for fewer complications.  Birds of a feather stick together.

I will still reach for the stars, but just one star at a time.  I will still strive to be the best I can be by not overextending my physical or mental reach.

Maybe, just maybe, if I can create an aura of simplicity around myself, others who come in contact with me will be drawn into the web of simplicity. Maybe if many of you reading this join in the crusade, we can start a global wave of simplicity that can reach into politics, government, finance and world relations.

Yep, starting now, I’m going to listen to Mr. McFerrin and not worry, be happy. How many will join me?

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine who also served for 15 years in municipal parks and recreation, is now a full-time photojournalist who lives in Beaufort, S.C.; he can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email