Most of the official, record-label-written biographies of Taylor McFerrin don’t mention that he is the son of musical legend Bobby McFerrin. This one goes to extreme lengths to tip-toe around the genetic elephant in the room, noting that Taylor draws inspiration “from every corner of his life.”
But I understand.
After all, it’s difficult enough to create your own musical identity without having to compete with a famous parent. It’s a no-win; if you succeed, you had connections and resources that gave you an unfair advantage. If you fail, it’s all the more pathetic, because you couldn’t capitalize on the genius in your genes.
That’s why I love this song, from Taylor McFerrin’s 2014 album Early Riser.
It was released eight years after his debut, 2006’s Broken Vibes. That previous album contained a lot of beatboxing, a fact that practically begged critics to see Taylor as a 21st-century version of his dad.
Early Riser, however, manages to go in very much its own direction without denying the huge effect that his father must have had on his musical sensibilities and instincts. This is the album’s opening track.
What makes this a beautiful song:
1. The title. A thousand implications about love, struggle, family, and fear in one little word.
2. His father’s vocal range is echoed in the way Taylor’s voice is layered over itself in different octaves.
3. Every musical element is either completely calm or furiously frantic. Creates wonderful tension, as if it’s about to lift off, but can’t quite decide where to go.
Recommended listening activity:
Re-imagining your family tree as a Venn diagram.