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Bobby McFerrin's feel-good song "Don't Worry, Be Happy" was the choice of the music academy for song and record of the year over Tracy Chapman's downhearted "Fast Car" at the 31st Grammy awards.

McFerrin, the vocal gymnast who uses his voice and body as an instrument, won four Grammys Wednesday night, while Miss Chapman, a shy 25-year-old folksinger from Boston whose self-titled album dealt with racism, poverty and desperation, won three trophies, including best new artist."I think it was so popular because it went to the spirit," McFerrin said backstage of his song. "I think, given the mood at the time, it was such that people wanted something uplifting and jovial and funny. The tempo was nice."

George Michael's LP "Faith," a crossover blend of ballads, rock and soulful pop, beat out Chapman's "Tracy Chapman," McFerrin's "Simple Pleasures," Sting's ". . . Nothing Like The Sun" and Steve Winwood's "Roll With It" for album of the year honors.

Fifteen of the Grammys were handed out in a 3-hour, 20-minute-long ceremony broadcast live on CBS from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The rest of the 76 awards for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences were handed out during a pre-broadcast ceremony.

The Grammy committee brought back comedian Billy Crystal as host of the show for the third straight year, guaranteeing a fast-paced and funny telecast.

McFerrin and Chapman were joined by a dozen other nominees ranging from Metallica to classical violinist Itzhak Perlman in giving live performances on the Grammy stage.

Pop superstar Michael Jackson - shut out in all televised categories in 1988 - received only one nomination this year. His single, "Man in the Mirror," competed with Anita Baker, Chapman, McFerrin and Winwood efforts for record of the year.

Vying with Chapman for the new artist award were Rick Astley, Toni Childs, the a cappella gospel group Take 6 and defrocked Miss America Vanessa Williams.

In an effort to please its diverse constituency, the academy scheduled prime-time awards for best Mexican-American performance, best soul gospel performance, best classical soloist, best male country vocalist and best hard rock-heavy metal artist, a new category.

Among the 61 awards left out of the televised portion because of time considerations was rap - the other category added this year. The decision prompted D.J. Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, the winners for "Parents Just Don't Understand," along with nominees Salt-N-Pepa and LL Cool J, to boycott the show. The other nominees were J.J. Fad and Kool Moe Dee.

"I personally felt that the boycott was negative," said Kool Moe Dee, an award presenter. "I understand that they felt a little upset because they didn't get the rap segment on television, but I think it was more important for the rap fans, for America, to see rappers in a different light."

Singer Anita Baker took two rhythm & blues trophies for her "Giving You the Best That I Got," including best female performance and a shared songwriting award with Skip Scarborough and Randy Holland.

In country music, K.T. Oslin's single "Hold Me" won best country song and she was named top female country vocalist for the second year in a row. Randy Travis was named top male country vocalist for the second year in a row, for "Old 8 X 10." The Judds won best country group for "Give a Little Love."

Willie Dixon, the 73-year-old blues master whose songs have been hits for so many rock groups, finally won his first Grammy for his "Hidden Charms" album in the best traditional blues recording category. He mounted the stage with the aid of a cane and received a standing ovation.

"I've been in the music business for about 50 years," Dixon said backstage."It's about time, don't you think?"

Dixon's compositions for rock groups include such hits as "Spoonful" for the British supergroup Cream in the late 1960s.

McFerrin, asked by reporters about the difference in musical style between him and Chapman, said he didn't like the idea of competition with her.

"I am touched by her music," he said."This is by no means a gauge of artistic ability."

Besides best song and record, McFerrin won best pop male vocal for "Don't Worry" and the male jazz vocal award for the song "Brothers" on Rob Wasserman's album "Duets."

Chapman did not appear backstage to talk to reporters. Her Grammys were for best contemporary folk recording, best new artist, and best pop female vocal performance for "Fast Car," a song about a woman trying to escape poverty by driving away from it with her jobless boyfriend.

Chapman's debut album deals with such subjects as poverty, racism and revolution and was a surprise hit in 1988, selling more than 3 million copies.

"I want to thank my family - my mother, who bought me my first guitar, my sister, who's always been my best audience, best critic and best friend," Chapmansaid tearfully as she accepted the award for best female pop vocalist.

She had been nominated for six awards and was given a good chance of breakingthe record of five Grammys won by Christopher Cross in 1980.

Classical conductor Sir Georg Solti, the all-time high Grammy winner, picked up his 27th and 28th awards for best chamber music performance and best choral performance.

A check of Grammy records showed "Don't Worry, Be Happy" was the first a capella song, or one without instrumental background, to win best song and record of the year. Another a capella group, the sextet Take 6, won the soul gospel duo-group award for their self-titled debut album.

In a new category, hard rock-metal vocal or instrumental, the high-voltage rockers Jethro Tull won for "Crest of a Knave," defeating newer groups such as Metallica and Jane's Addiction.

Neil Dorfsman was named producer of the year for British rocker Sting's album, ". . . Nothing Like The Sun."

The late Roy Orbison won his third Grammy, sharing best country vocal collaboration with country singer k.d. lang for their version of Orbison's "Crying."

Tina Turner won the female rock vocalist prize with "Tina Live in Europe." Robert Palmer won male rock vocalist for "Simply Irresistible."

Manhattan Transfer, the harmonious jazz vocal quartet, were awarded best pop performance by a duo or group for the single "Brasil," beating out the Beach Boys, who have never won a Grammy and were favored to win.

Pop singer Linda Ronstadt took honors in the Mexican-American category for her album "Canciones de Mi Padre," dedicated to her father's heritage.

Terence Trent D'Arby won best male rhythm & blues vocal for "Introducing theHardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby."

Irish rockers U2 won for rock performance by a group for the single "Desire" and music video performance for "Where the Streets Have No Name."

Lifetime achievement awards were given to dancer-actor Fred Astaire, blues chanteuse Bessie Smith, jazz pianist Art Tatum, cellist Pablo Casals, violinist Jascha Heifetz, singer-actress Lena Horne, soprano Leontyne Price, singer Sarah Vaughan and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.

Other winners included the Rev. Jesse Jackson for best spoken word recordingfor a speech included on Aretha Franklin's "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism" album. Franklin's album also won best female soul gospel performance.

Grammy winners are determined by balloting among members of the academy, who are recording artists, songwriters, musicians, producers and technicians.