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  • Born

    13 March 1942

  • Born In

    El Monte, Los Angeles County, California, United States

  • Died

    3 December 1999 (aged 57)

John Paul Larkin (El Monte, California, March 13, 1942-Los Angeles, California, December 3, 1999), better known by his stage name Scatman John, was a famous American scat singer who invented a unique fusion between the Scat and dance music. His song «Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop)

John Larkin was his stage name before becoming John Scatman in 1995

Born in El Monte, California, John Paul Larkin suffered a serious stuttering since he began speaking, which led him to an emotionally traumatic childhood. Even at the peak of his success in 1995, journalists claimed that during interviews he hardly finished a sentence without repeating the last syllable six or seven times. At age 12 he began to go to piano lessons, and at age 14 he began in the art of scat through recordings of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, among others. The piano was for him a means of artistic expression that compensated for his difficulties in speaking. He stressed in an interview in 1996 that playing the piano was a way of speaking for me … I hid behind the piano because I was afraid to speak.

In the 1970s and 1980s he became a professional jazz pianist, playing several pieces in various clubs around Los Angeles. During this time of passionate interest in the art world, in which he devoured works and essays by Theodor Adorno and especially Michel Foucault, he adopted his characteristic appearance, composed of suit, tie and bowler hat, clearly inspired by his admired surrealist artist René Magritte. Such was the influence that the Belgian painter exerted on him, that his musical purpose was none other than adapting the aesthetic foundations of surreralism to popular music. In 1986 he released his first album he called John Larkin with the Transition Label. Copies of that album are, today, extremely rare. However he claimed to have thousands of them scattered in the bathroom of his house.

At that time, alcoholism and drug addiction began to energize his life. When his friend, musician Joe Farrell, who also had a drug problem, died in 1987, Larkin decided to overcome his vices. He got it later with the help of his new wife Judy. You have talent, she told him. I will do something big about you.

In 1990, Larkin moved to Berlin to continue his musical career. He continued playing as a jazz pianist in clubs throughout Germany. That's where he decided to add lyrics to his musical pieces for the first time, inspired by the ovation he received after playing On the Sunny Side of the Street. At the time, his assistant Manfred Zahringer suggested combining the scat with disco and hip-hop, an idea that Larkin was skeptical but to which BMG Hamburg was receptive.

Larkin was mainly afraid that listeners would realize he was stuttering, so Judy suggested that he talk openly about it in his songs. Working with dance music producers Ingo Kays and Tony Catania, Larkin recorded his first single: Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop, a song that sought to encourage children suffering from stuttering to overcome adversity. Larkin adopted the stage name of Scatman John

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