Scatman John: Wikis


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Scatman John

Background information
Birth name John Paul Larkin
Born March 13, 1942(1942-03-13)
El Monte, California, U.S.
Died December 3, 1999 (aged 57)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres Jazz, house, dance, eurodance, pop, scat rap
Occupations Vocalist, musician, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, piano
Years active 1986 – 1999

John Paul Larkin (March 13, 1942 – December 3, 1999), better known by his stage name Scatman John, was an American jazz musician and singer who created a fusion of scat singing and dance music, best known for his 1994 hit "Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop)".

A stutterer, John liked to say scatting was a process of "turning my biggest problem into my biggest asset". Scatman John sold millions of recordings worldwide and was named "Best New Artist" in the Echo Awards in both Japan and 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.



Born in El Monte, California, Larkin suffered from a severe stutter "since [he] started talking," which led to an emotionally traumatic childhood. Even at the peak of his success in 1995, journalists reported that during interviews he "hardly finishes a sentence without repeating the phrase at least six or seven times." At age 12 he began to learn piano, and was introduced to the art of scat singing at 14 through records by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, amongst others. The piano provided him with a means of artistic expression to compensate for his speech difficulties. He remarked in a 1996 interview that "playing piano gave me a way to speak... I hid behind the piano because I was scared of talking."

Larkin became a professional jazz pianist in the 1970s and '80s, playing many gigs in jazz clubs around Los Angeles. In 1986, he released the self-titled album John Larkin on the Transition label, copies of which are now extremely rare. He claimed to have "hundreds of them lying around in [his] closet at home". Around this time, alcoholism and drug addiction were also beginning to take a hold of his life. When fellow musician and friend Joe Farrell, who also had a drug problem, died of bone cancer in 1986, Larkin decided to beat his habits. He eventually did so, largely with the help of his new wife Judy, also a recovering alcoholic. "You have talent," she told him. "I'm going to make something out of you."

Birth of "Scatman John"

To advance his career in 1990, Larkin moved to Berlin, Germany. From there he discovered the appreciative jazz culture and started playing jazz gigs.[1] Here he decided to add singing to his act for the first time, inspired by the standing ovation he received for his rendition of the song "On the Sunny Side of the Street." Soon after, his agent Manfred Zähringer from Iceberg Records in Denmark thought of combining scat-singing with modern dance music and hip hop sounds. Larkin was resistant at first but BMG Hamburg was open.

Larkin was mainly scared that listeners would realize he stuttered, so 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)," a song intended to inspire children who stuttered to overcome adversity. He adopted the new name and persona of Scatman John.

International success

In 1995, at age 52, Larkin became a worldwide star. Sales of his debut single were slow at first, but gradually reached #1 in many countries and sold over six million records worldwide. "Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)" which charted quite highly across Europe remains his biggest-selling and most well-known song.[2] He later followed up with the song "Scatman's World" entering the UK Singles chart at #10, which met lesser but still notable success, selling a million copies and charting highly throughout Europe.[3]

Following the success of these two singles, he released his debut album, also titled Scatman's World, which entered the top 10 album charts in many countries including his then home Germany[4] as well as in Switzerland, Finland and Norway,[5] which eventually sold millions of copies worldwide,[1] He began a promotional and concert tour of Europe and Asia. "At an appearance I did in Spain, the kids screamed for five minutes straight, I couldn't start the song", he once recounted.[6]

Post-Scatman's World

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. He was so popular there that Japanese toy stores sold dolls of his likeness and he appeared on phone cards and Coca Cola cans. 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 in hats and moustaches.

Final years

In 1999, Larkin released his third and final album as Scatman John, Take Your Time. It was later revealed that he had been battling ill health since late 1998. He continued work on the album despite being told to take it easy from his substantial workload. He was later diagnosed with lung cancer and soon went into intensive treatment. He maintained a positive attitude throughout, declaring that "Whatever God wants is fine by me... I've had the very best life. I have tasted beauty".[7] He died in his Los Angeles home on December 3, 1999. He was cremated and was buried at sea near Malibu, California.[8]


In 2009 European dance artist Mark Oh has released his version of Scatman, featuring samples from the original song. The accompanying video is similar in style to the original Scatman video, even showing clips from that intercut with black and white cartoon footage. The video ends with the caption "In Loving Memory of Scatman John".

Internet character Gummy Bear also recorded a version of Scatman on the album I Am Your Gummy Bear.


Studio albums

Compilation albums



  • Popstar - (1 track CD) (1995)
  • Scatman Megamix (1996)
  • Scatman John DJ Sampler (1996
  • Scatmambo - (2 Track Promo) (1998)
  • Steal The Base from Major League 2: Back To The Minors soundtrack (1998)
  • Take Your Time Club Mixes (1999)

Video Da Scatman

Video Da Scatman is a 25 minute video tape sold in Japan. In it Scatman talks a little about his vision of Scatland and his lifes philosophy. It also includes the videos for Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop) and Scatman's World.

Music Videos


External links

Simple English

Scatman John
Birth name John Paul Larkin
Born March 13, 1942(1942-03-13)
El Monte, California, U.S.
Origin El Monte, California, U.S.
Died December 3, 1999
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres Jazz, house, dance, eurodance, pop, scat rap
Occupations Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals, piano
Years active 19861999

Scatman John (real name: John Paul Larkin) (born March 13, 1942 in El Monte, California – died December 3, 1999 in Los Angeles, California) was an American jazz musician and singer. His most popular song is "Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop)". Scatman John died on December 3, 1999 in Los Angeles, California from lung cancer. Scatman John was named "Best New Artist" in the Echo Awards in both Japan and Germany and won a American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's Annie Glenn Award for outstanding service to the stuttering community.


Scatman John released 4 albums over his career:

Year Album
1986 John Larkin*
1995 Scatman's World
1996 Everybody Jam!
1999 Take Your Time
  • Not released commercially

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