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Famous Like Me > Composer > J > Scatman John

Profile of Scatman John on Famous Like Me

Name: Scatman John  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 13th March 1942
Place of Birth: El Monte, California, USA
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Scatman John

John Paul Larkin (born March 13, 1942 in El Monte, California; died December 3, 1999 in Los Angeles), known as Scatman John, was a famous stutterer who invented a unique fusion of scat singing and disco, while making his "problem" into music. His albums sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide. Scatman John has received 14 golds and 18 platinums for his albums and singles. In 1999, he died of lung cancer at his home in Los Angeles aged 57.

Early days

Larkin's scarce 1986 debut, Transition

John 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. 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."

He became a professional jazz pianist in the 1970's and 80's, playing many gigs in jazz clubs around Los Angeles. In 1986 he released the album Transition under the name John Larkin, copies of which are now extremely scarce. He claimed to have "hundreds of them lying around in [his] bedroom". 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 in 1987, Larkin decided to beat his habits. He eventually did so, largely with the help of his new wife Judy. "You have talent", she told him. "I'm going to make something out of you".

Birth of "Scatman John"

Larkin playing a gig at a European jazz club in the early 1990's.

In 1990, Larkin moved to Berlin, Germany in order to further his career. Appreciative of the jazz culture of the city, he continued playing gigs as a jazz pianist on cruise ships and in bars and clubs around Germany. It was here he made the decision to add singing to his act for the first time, inspired by the standing ovation he recieved for his rendition of the song "On the Sunny Side of the Street" at the end of an instrumental set. Around this time, his agent Manfred Zahringer suggested that Larkin combine his scat-singing with modern techno and hip hop sounds, an idea to which Larkin was reluctant but BMG Hamburg were receptive.

Larkin was mainly scared that listeners would realise 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 Dop 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

The cover of the international smash album Scatman's World

In 1995, at age 52, Scatman John took off throughout the world. Sales of his debut single were slow at first, but the song gradually took off to massive proportions, reaching #1 in nearly every country it was released in and selling over 6 million copies worldwide. It remains his biggest-selling and most well-known song to date. He later followed up with the song "Scatman's World", which met lesser but still notable success, selling a million copies and charting highly throughout Europe.

Following the success of these two singles, he released his debut album, also entitled Scatman's World. It sold three million copies. 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. While conducting promotional interviews for the album, he became so fluent that one journalist remarked that he hadn't heard Larkin stutter once and asked if he was merely using the stuttering community "as a gimmick to further [his] career". Larkin was shocked to find himself ashamed of his fluency rather than his stutter for the first time ever.

Post-"Scatman's World"

The cover of the Japanese "Scatultraman" single

The second Scatman John album, Everybody Jam!, was released in 1996. While nowhere 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 bigger 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 songs Su Su Super Kirei and Pripri Scat, which were commissioned by Japanese companies exclusively for commercials for cosmetics and pudding respectively. The Ultraman franchise even jumped on the Scatman bandwagon, releasing a single entitled "Scatultraman", the cover art of which featured the Ultraman characters in a hat and mustache.

Final years

1999's Take Your Time

In 1999, Larkin released his third and what would become his last album, Take Your Time. It was later revealed that Larkin 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, which seemed to be causing him heart troubles. 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". He died in his Los Angeles home on December 3, 1999.

In a 1996 interview, he commented that "I hope that the kids, while they sing along to my songs or dance to it, feel that life is not that bad at all. Even for just a minute".



  • "Transition" (1986)
  • "Scatman's World" (1995) #2 Japan
  • "Everybody Jam!" (1996) #17 Japan
  • "Take Your Time" (1999)
  • "Listen to the Scatman" (2001)
  • "The Best of Scatman John'" (2002)


[*] = Japan-only releases

  • "Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)" (1994) #1 Japan, #1 Europe, #3 UK, #7 Australia
  • "Scatman's World" (1995)
  • "Song of Scatland" (1995)
  • "Only You" [*] (1995)

"Scat Paradise" (EP) [*] (1995) #45 Japan

  1. Hey, You!
  2. Jazzology
  3. Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop) (Jazz Level)
  4. Scatman's World (US Remix)
  5. Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop) (Karaoke)
  6. Scatman's World (Karaoke)

  • "Pripri Scat" (3") [*] (1996) #28 Japan
  • "Everybody Jam! (1996)

"Su Su Su Super Kirei" [*] (1996) #16 Japan

  1. Su Su Su Super Kirei (Radio Edit)
  2. Su Su Su Super Kirei (All Night Long Version)
  3. Su Su Su Super Kirei (Karaoke Version)
  4. Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop) (Extended Radio)
  5. Love Me Tender (L.A. Unplugged Mix)

"Let It Go" (1997)

  1. Let It Go (Go For Club)
  2. Let It Go (Go For Radio)
  3. Let It Go (Go For More)
  4. Message To You

"Scatmambo" (1998)

  1. Scatmambo (Commercial Radio Mix)
  2. Scatmambo (Punching Radio Mix)
  3. Scatmambo (Punching Dancehall Mix)
  4. Scatmambo (Havanna Extended Mix)
  5. Scatmambo (Latin Short Mix)

"The Chickadee Song" (1999)

  1. The Chickadee Song (The Album Version)
  2. The Chickadee Song (A Little Bit Faster)
  3. Take Your Time (Original Radio Edit)
  4. Take Your Time (Pierre J's Energy Radio Version)
  5. Take Your Time (Pierre J's Energy Club Mix)

  • "I Love Samba" [*] (1999)
  • "Ichi, Ni, San... Go!" [*] (1999)

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Scatman John