John Larkin was a musician and singer from Los Angeles. From an early age he was a severe stutterer, unable to communicate his thoughts and ideas effectively through speech. Eventually he learned how to play piano and music became his only way to express himself. He became a jazz pianist and performed in many clubs and restaurants in Los Angeles. He also became an alcoholic. After his best friend died from alcohol and drug abuse, John has decided to get rid of his addiction and moved to Germany. Shortly thereafter he started a brand new career.
Most people wouldn’t recognize the name “John Larkin”. “John Who?”. But John had a stage name that most people won’t have any trouble remembering. That name was:
Following the steps of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, John has combined scat singing (vocal improvisation with wordless vocables) with dance, rap and hip-hop music elements. His first song “Scatman’s World” became an instant international success, especially in Europe and Asia. He was so successful in Japan that his signature mustache and black hat was printed on Coca-Cola cans. “Everybody Jam!”, a tribute to Louis Armstrong only proved that John has managed to turn his handicap into his biggest asset.
John was always promoting care for the environment, love and world peace in his songs. His music was never about the rhythm, he was always trying to “say something”:
Scatman, fat man, black and white and brown manTell me ’bout the color of your soulIf part of your solution isn’t ending the pollutionThen I don’t want to hear your stories toldI want to welcome you to Scatman’s world
Perhaps unsurprisingly, John’s best song has very little to do with scat. The song’s name is “Lebanon“
Do the caravans still ride across the sand?Or is the season causing everything sacred to fall?Do the sages sing their chant throughout the land?Or has their song been silenced over the centuries, to all?
John Paul Larkin died of lung cancer in 1999, at the age of 57. In many ways his fate is similar to what of Ric Locke – years of obscurity, an explosive short career and an untimely death that has devastated everyone around him.
John gave the world many great songs to enjoy. His original jazz album is now extremely rare, but can be found online. Rest in peace John, we will just keep scatting on for you!