“I have his picture on the back of my phone. There’s a little polaroid that I’ve stuck into the case. So, I’ve always got you with me.” Madison McFerrin was talking about her father, the jazz legend Bobby McFerrin, on NPR (listen to the entire interview here). Turns out the McFerrin musical legacy reaches back to Madison’s grandfather. “My father was the first African American to sign a contract with the Metropolitan Opera, 1955,” Bobby told NPR. Madison carried her family’s fame with her to the Berklee College of Music, where, she says, “people were kind of freaking out” when they realized who she was.
Not easy, she says, but her formal training “helped me gain perspective, because all of the sudden I was starting to listen to my dad’s music as a musician and not just his daughter. Sometimes you can take for granted when there’s a genius walking around your house making all these random noises that, as a kid, you don’t understand are really difficult to make.”
Now she’s making her own name, having released two projects, Finding Foundations Vol. I and II. Her music tells bold, raw stories, in sharp contrast her father’s ultra-mellow 1988 hit, Don’t Worry, Be Happy. One of her songs, Can You See, deals with police brutality. “Having the national anthem in there and changing some the words really seemed to hit home about what the topic actually is,” Madison told NPR. “It gets summed up at the end when I say, ‘but so proudly you hail, while we are all out there screaming.’”
Clearly, Bobby McFerrin raised an outspoken daughter, and he loves her risk-taking: “Maddie has built her career on words,” he said, “and I built it on non-words. She’s more of a lyricist. She’s full of words and what she has to say is very, very provocative and interesting. I wish I had that gift.”