Scatman John

Scatman John
Media 55.GIF
Background information
Birth nameJohn Paul Larkin
Born(1942-03-13)March 13, 1942
El Monte, California, U.S.
DiedDecember 3, 1999(1999-12-03) (aged 57)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Musician
  • singer
Years active1976–1999

John Paul Larkin (March 13, 1942 – December 3, 1999), known professionally as Scatman John, was an American musician and singer who created a fusion of scat singing and dance music, best known for his 1995 hits "Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)" and "Scatman's World".

Scatman John sold millions of recordings worldwide and was named Best New Artist in the Echo Awards in Germany. He was a recipient of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's Annie Glenn Award for outstanding service to the stuttering community and National Stuttering Association Hall of Fame.

Early life

Larkin was born in El Monte, California. He suffered from a severe stutter by the time he learned to speak, which led to an emotionally traumatic childhood. At age twelve, he began to learn the piano and was introduced to the art of scat singing two years later through records by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, among others.[1] The piano provided him with a means of artistic expression to compensate for his speech difficulties, and he "hid behind [the] piano because [he] was scared to speak."[2]

Musical career

Larkin became a professional jazz pianist in the 1970s and 1980s, playing many engagements in jazz clubs around Los Angeles.[citation needed] His first known performance on a studio album was in 1981 on the album Animal Sounds by Sam Phipps. In 1986, he released the self-titled album John Larkin on the Transition label. This album was produced by John himself, along with Marcia Larkin. It featured Joe Farrell on saxophone.

"Scatman John"

To advance his career in 1990, Larkin moved to Berlin, Germany. Once there, he discovered an appreciative jazz culture and started playing jazz gigs.[3] This was when he first decided to take a monumental step away from his insecurities and add singing to his act for the first time, heavily inspired by the standing ovation he received for his rendition of the song "On the Sunny Side of the Street".[citation needed] Soon after, his agent Manfred Zähringer from Iceberg Records (Denmark) thought of combining scat-singing with modern dance music and hip hop effects. Larkin was resistant at first, terrified of being laughed at and criticized once again, but BMG Hamburg was open.[citation needed]

Larkin was worried that listeners would realize he stuttered, and his wife, Judy, suggested that he talk about it directly in his music. Working with dance producers Ingo Kays and Tony Catania, he recorded the first single, "Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)". After his first big hit, he adopted the new name and persona of "Scatman" John.

In 1995, at age 53, Larkin became a worldwide star. Sales of his debut single were slow at first, but they gradually reached number-one in many countries and sold over six million records worldwide. "Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)" charted highly across Europe and Japan and remains his biggest-selling and most well-known song.[4] He later followed up with the song "Scatman's World" entering the UK Singles chart at number 10, which met lesser but still notable success, selling a million copies and charting highly throughout Europe.[5]

Following the success of these two singles, he released his debut album as Scatman John, also titled Scatman's World, which entered the top 10 album charts in many countries including his then home Germany[6] as well as in Switzerland, Finland and Norway;[7] the album eventually sold millions of copies worldwide.[3] He began a promotional and concert tour of Europe and Asia. Referring to a performance in Spain, Larkin said, "the kids screamed for five minutes straight, I couldn't start the song".[8]

The second Scatman John album, Everybody Jam!, was released in 1996. While nowhere near as successful on an international level as his debut, the album and accompanying single took off in Japan, the country in which he would see success on a larger scale than anywhere else in the world.[citation needed] He was so popular there that he even appeared on Coca-Cola cans.[9] In Europe, subsequent singles failed to replicate the chart success of his first two singles, giving him the title two-hit wonder.

The Japanese version of Everybody Jam! included a total of five bonus tracks, including the hit singles there Su Su Su Super Ki Re i and "Pripri Scat", which were commissioned by Japanese companies for commercials for cosmetics and pudding respectively. The Ultraman franchise even jumped on the Scatman bandwagon, releasing a single titled Scatultraman, the cover art of which featured the Ultraman characters wearing Scatman's trademark hat and mustache.[citation needed] The album reached No. 45 in Switzerland.[10]

Illness and death

In late 1998 Larkin was diagnosed with lung cancer, but he continued his musical work despite being told to take it easy from his substantial workload. In June 1999, Larkin released his fourth and ultimately final album as Scatman John, Take Your Time. Shortly afterwards, he embarked on a 24-city US tour. At the concert of November 26, 1999, in Cleveland, OH, Larkin collapsed on stage during the show's finale. While engaged in his trademark show-closing scat duel against his drummer, Larkin appeared to faint on stage. The crowd initially believed the collapse to be part of the show, until an announcement was made that the show would be ending due to a medical situation. Larkin was transported to the Cleveland Clinic where he was stabilized. The following week he returned to his home in Los Angeles. Even though he was very ill, Larkin remained positive, saying, "Whatever God wants is fine by me ... I've had the very best life. I have tasted beauty."[11]

Larkin died at his home in Los Angeles on December 3, 1999, at the age of 57. He was surrounded by his wife Judy, his mother Harriet, and his brother Bill. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea near Malibu, California.[12]



Music videos

Year Video Director
1994 "Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)" Kerstin Mueller
1995 "Scatman's World" Martin Weisz
"Song of Scatland"
1996 "Everybody Jam!" Hannes Rossacher
"Su Su Su Super Ki Re i"


  1. ^ Perrone, Pierre (December 23, 1999). "Obituary: John Larkin". The Independent. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
  2. ^ OLIVER, MYRNA (December 8, 1999). "John Larkin; Scat Singer Overcame Stuttering". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Scatman John’s Interview with Ira Zimmerman, mnsu.edu.
  4. ^ Scatman John's “Scatman” single’s positions, dutchcharts.nl.
  5. ^ Scatman John’s “Scatman’s World” single’s positions, dutchcharts.nl.
  6. ^ "Scatman John's "Scatman's World" album position in Germany". Archived from the original on December 12, 2009. Retrieved June 24, 2008.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link), charts-surfer.de.
  7. ^ Scatman John's "Scatman's World" album’s positions dutchcharts.nl.
  8. ^ Zimmerman, Ira. “The Stutter and the Scat is the Same Thing” Scatman Interview, 1995-12-04
  9. ^ "Scatman Coke can". CokeCollection.
  10. ^ "Scatman John - Everbody Jam! (Album)". Hitparade.ch. Retrieved June 30, 2010.
  11. ^ "a few cool things › "Scatman John" Larkin – John Larkin LP (1986)". Archived from the original on August 24, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  12. ^ Remembering Scatman John Larkin Do You Miss Him

External links

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