Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)

"Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)"
Cover for the single
Single by Scatman John
from the album Scatman's World
ReleasedNovember 30, 1994
  • 5:03
  • 3:30 (radio )
  • John Larkin
  • Antonio Nunzio Catania
  • Antonio Nunzio Catania
  • Tony Catania
  • Catania Music Studios
Scatman John singles chronology
"Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)"
"Scatman's World"
Music video
"Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)" on YouTube

"Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)" is a song by American musician Scatman John. It was released in November 1994 as a single, and was later re-released in July 1995 for his second album, Scatman's World (1995). The song is described as "a blend of jazz scatting, rap, and house beats". It reached number-one on the charts in at least nine countries and also won the March 1996 Echo Award in Germany for the best Rock/Pop single.[1]

Background and release[]

Born in El Monte, California, Larkin 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 piano and was introduced to the art of scat singing two years later, through records by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, among others. Larkin became a professional jazz pianist in the 1970s and 1980s, playing many engagements in jazz clubs around Los Angeles. 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.

"In my opinion that song has a really strong message, I and John Larkin wrote the lyrics for old and young generation. Also, I think the track will go on to be an evergreen, because it's so catchy and original. On top of that, with old man singing dance music was not typical for the scene. I think this is such a positive song, that encourages people to do something out of their life and the message is AGE DOESN'T MATTER."

—Producer Tony Catania talking about the song.[2]

To advance his career in 1990, Larkin moved to Berlin, Germany. From there, he discovered the 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. 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. Larkin was worried that listeners would realise he stuttered, and his wife, Judy, suggested that he talk about it directly in his music.

Producer Tony Catania then received a VHS from Zähringer. On the tape, he observed Larkin playing piano songs from Fitzgerald, Armstrong etc. He told in an interview, "The sound was a little crazy but at the end of this tape, I remember it like yesterday, he starts his scat singing improvisation. I was thinking at the moment that this is a great idea. I say to his management to bring John Larkin from L.A. to my studio and in this moment, Scatman John was born!!!" In two days, working with producers Ingo Kays and Catania, the new single, "Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)" was created. Catania added, "Those days, the sounds were always the same, and I was coming up with an old jazz guy that had the talent to scat, something like that would shock the scene. I was right, Scatman John was a huge success worldwide."[4] After the success of his first single, Larkin adopted the new name and persona of "Scatman" John.

Critical reception[]

Larry Flick from Billboard deemed "Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)" a "novelty dance tune", noting that it "has a giddy Euro-NRG tone" and that Scatman John "bends his tongue to rapid, ear-popping effect."[5] Dimitri Ehrlich from Entertainment Weekly wrote that "this synth-pop hit defines novelty: A chintzy drum machine pitter patters at a frantic pace while John, a Los Angeles jazz vocalist who has stuttered since childhood, frees himself from his speech impediment by scatting for three minutes and twenty seconds."[6] Music writer James Masterton viewed it as "a bizarre part-rapped, part spoken, part-scatted dance hit performed by the enigmatic Scatman John who is almost as old as my father and really should know better. Still, a culpable hit it is and destined apparently for the Top 3."[7] Pan-European magazine Music & Media commented, "Try to say that title in one go without choking on your words. Impossible! But Scatman has no problems scatting his nonsensical rhyme, a serious candidate for a novelty dance hit."[8] James Hamilton from Music Week's RM Dance Update described it as "John Larkin's jaunty ragga scatted and 'I'm a Scatman' chanted Italian galloper".[9] Debby Peterson from The Network Forty called it a "hellacious techno-dance groove".[10]

Chart performance[]

The song was very successful on the charts all over the world, reaching number-one in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland, as well as on the Eurochart Hot 100 and the Canadian RPM Dance/Urban chart. Additionally, it also reached the top 10 in Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland, Sweden and the UK. In the latter, the single reached number three in its third week at the UK Singles Chart, on May 21, 1995.[11] It climbed into the top 20 in Iceland and Poland, and the top 40 in Japan and New Zealand. In the US, the single peaked at number 60 on the Billboard Hot 100, number ten on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart and number 62 on the Cash Box Top 100. Scatman John was awarded the March 1996 Echo Award in Germany for the best Rock/Pop single with "Scatman".[12] The single was also awarded with a gold record in Australia, Austria, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, and a platinum record in France and Germany.

Music video[]

The accompanying music video for "Scatman" was released in 1994 and directed by Kerstin Mueller. It was also produced by Ariola Records.[13] It was shot in black and white, and features a fractured screen with several boxes showing shots of John singing, along with various people dancing, miming and playing drums. The video was played in heavy rotation on music channels in 1995. It was later published on Scatman John's official YouTube channel in November 2013. The video has amassed more than 130 million views as of March 2022.[14]


In 2021, music producers Alan Walker and Imanbek sampled the song and additionally used wording from the title of the song in their hit "Sweet Dreams".


Year Publisher Country Accolade Rank
2013 Vibe United States "Before EDM: 30 Dance Tracks From The '90s That Changed The Game"[15] #28
2017 BuzzFeed United States "The 101 Greatest Dance Songs Of the '90s"[16] #94

Track listings[]

Charts and sales[]


  1. ^ "Echo 1996 - The Winners" (PDF). Music & Media. March 9, 1996. p. 15. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  2. ^ Soininen, Juha (August 26, 2020). Move Your Body (2 The 90's): Unlimited Eurodance. BoD - Books on Demand. p. 276. ISBN 9789528026303. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  3. ^ Scatman John’s Interview with Ira Zimmerman,
  4. ^ Soininen, Juha (August 26, 2020). Move Your Body (2 The 90's): Unlimited Eurodance. BoD - Books on Demand. p. 276. ISBN 9789528026303. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  5. ^ Flick, Larry (July 22, 1995). "Single Reviews" (PDF). Billboard. p. 57. Retrieved February 3, 2020.
  6. ^ Ehrlich, Dimitri. "Music Single Review: Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  7. ^ Masterton, James (May 7, 1995). "Week Ending May 13th 1995". Chart Watch UK. Retrieved September 19, 2021.
  8. ^ "New Releases: Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. January 7, 1995. p. 7. Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  9. ^ Hamilton, James (April 29, 1995). "Dj directory" (PDF). Music Week, in Record Mirror (Dance Update Supplemental Insert). p. 11. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  10. ^ Peterson, Debby (June 30, 1995). "Crossover" (PDF). The Network Forty. p. 40. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  11. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100 21 May 1995 - 27 May 1995". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  12. ^ "Echo 1996 - The Winners" (PDF). Music & Media. March 9, 1996. p. 15. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  13. ^ "Scatman John Music Videos". IMVDb. Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  14. ^ "Scatman (ski-ba-bop-ba-dop-bop) Official Video HD -Scatman John". YouTube. November 20, 2013. Retrieved September 2, 2021.
  15. ^ "Before EDM: 30 Dance Tracks From The '90s That Changed The Game". Vibe. October 9, 2018.
  16. ^ "The 101 Greatest Dance Songs Of the '90s". BuzzFeed. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
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  18. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 2794." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  19. ^ "Top RPM Dance/Urban: Issue 2738." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  20. ^ Billboard 25 March 1995. Billboard. March 25, 1995. Retrieved December 1, 2010. hits of the world.
  21. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 12, no. 15. April 15, 1995. p. 28. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  22. ^ Finnish peak
  23. ^ "Offizielle Deutsche Charts - Scatman John - Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop) Single" (in German). BVMI Bundesverband Musikindustrie; GfK Entertainment GmbH. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  24. ^ "Íslenski Listinn Topp 40 04.02.1995 – 10.02.1995" (PDF). Dagblaðið Vísir – Tónlist. Retrieved February 1, 2018.
  25. ^ "The Irish Charts - All there is to know - Scatman John". IRMA. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  26. ^ "Top National Sellers" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 12, no. 24. June 17, 1995. p. 30. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  27. ^ "Japan #1 IMPORT DISKS by Oricon Hot Singles". Archived from the original on September 11, 2010. Retrieved January 24, 2018.
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  30. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100 21 May 1995 - 27 May 1995". Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 13, 2021.
  31. ^ Billboard: Hits of the World, May 13, 1995
  32. ^ Official UK Singles Chart Top 100 (21 May 1995-27 May 1995) (Retrieved October 23, 2018)]
  33. ^ "Official UK Dance Singles Chart (07 May 1995-20 May 1995)". Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  34. ^ "The RM on a Pop Tip Club Chart" (PDF). Music Week, in Record Mirror (Dance Update Supplemental Insert). June 3, 1995. p. 10. Retrieved September 2, 2021.
  35. ^ a b c d e Billboard AllMusic (Retrieved July 24, 2008)
  36. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Pop Singles" (PDF). Cash Box. October 14, 1995. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
  37. ^ a b "1995 ARIA Singles Chart". ARIA. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  38. ^ 1995 Austrian Singles Chart Archived September 24, 2010, at the Wayback Machine (Retrieved July 24, 2008)
  39. ^ 1995 Belgian (Flanders) Singles Chart (Retrieved July 24, 2008)
  40. ^ 1995 Belgian (Wallonia) Singles Chart (Retrieved July 24, 2008)
  41. ^ Canada Top 50 Dance Tracks of 1995
  42. ^ "1995 Year-End Sales Charts: Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. December 23, 1995. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  43. ^ 1995 French Singles Chart Archived February 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine (Retrieved January 30, 2009)
  44. ^ "Top 100 Single-Jahrescharts" (in German). GfK Entertainment. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  45. ^ "Jaarlijsten 1995" (in Dutch). Stichting Nederlandse Top 40. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  46. ^ 1995 Dutch Singles Top 100 (then Mega Top 50) Dutch (Retrieved August 29, 2019)
  47. ^ "VG-lista Topp 20 Single Vinter 1995" (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on August 31, 2017. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
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