Baritone Robert McFerrin, the first black male soloist at the
Metropolitan Opera, died November 24 at age 85. If you love Bobby
McFerrin, then you probably remember his dad singing a piece in the cut
'Discipline' on the Medicine Man album. That's exactly the kind of
singing I'm trying to find for my next bout of musical Recovery. Let
Bobby know your love at his website. A great piece can be found at Playbill:
McFerrin, the father of vocalist and conductor Bobby McFerrin, was born in 1921 in Marianna, Arkansas, the fourth of eight children of a Baptist minister. As a child, McFerrin was discouraged from singing anything but gospel music, but when he moved to St. Louis in 1936 he auditioned for the choir at Sumner High School and was introduced to classical vocal music.
He received an undergraduate degree from Chicago Musical College in 1946, then moved to New York. In 1949, he appeared in William Grant Still's Troubled Island at New York City Opera and as Amonasro in Aida with the National Negro Opera Company. He joined the New England Opera Company in 1950.
In 1953, McFerrin won the Metropolitan Opera national auditions and became the first black male to join the company. He made his debut in 1955 as Amonasro, three weeks after contralto Marian Anderson became the first black to sing a principal role at the Met. His other roles at the house were Valentin (in Gounod's Faust) and Rigoletto.
McFerrin also sang the role of Porgy (played onscreen by Sidney Poitier) in the soundtrack of the 1959 film of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. He toured internationally as a recitalist and was also active as a teacher.
There is also info from Shep:
Mr. McFerrin toured internationally, showcasing his rich, baritone voice in concerts and opera houses throughout Europe. He sang with the National Negro Opera Company and appeared on Broadway.
In 1973, Mr. McFerrin moved back to St. Louis, performing regularly at venues such as the Sheldon Concert Hall and the St. Louis Art Museum. Though a stroke in 1989 impaired his speaking ability, he was still able to sing. He continued to perform, teach and tour on a demanding schedule until 1998.
Mr. McFerrin often sang alongside his daughter, Brenda McFerrin of Anaheim, Calif., a recording artist, and his son, Grammy-winning conductor and vocalist Robert “Bobby” McFerrin Jr. of Philadelphia, who is best-known for the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
In 2003, Opera America honored the senior Mr. McFerrin with a lifetime achievement award. He earned a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 2004.
Here was an extraordinary man and father. I'm sure he will be sorely missed. There seems to be nowhere I can find his music. Musicbrains could only locate one track, and there's virtually nothing on the web about the National Negro Opera Company. If anybody knows something, let me know.