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September 10, 2003

Kansas City Star
By Cheryl Wittenauer
The Associated Press

Robert McFerrin stares at the television in his living room and listens intently to the deep, rich baritone voice, recorded 30 years ago.

At first, it seems the 82-year-old doesn't recognize the opera singer on the videotape. Sitting on the couch in long underwear, a sea-blue robe and tennis shoes, McFerrin is lost in the music, his eyes closed, his left hand and head keeping tempo. Then, prompted by his soul's stirrings, McFerrin joins the singer on the TV screen performing a German aria.

Finally, McFerrin makes the connection. "That man," he says, pointing to the TV, "that's me."

McFerrin, who broke opera's racial barrier and was recently honored by a national opera group, also is the father of Grammy-winning vocalist Bobby McFerrin, best known for 1988's "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

Doctors suspect the elder McFerrin has Alzheimer's disease. He also suffered a stroke in the late '80s that impaired his verbal ability. His singing voice, however, never left him. Its range, diction and intonation are still masterful.

Now, in his old age, singing is McFerrin's therapy and nourishment, said his wife, Athena. More

Posted by acapnews at September 10, 2003 10:10 AM

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