Farrell was born and raised on the island of Aruba in the Lesser Antilles. He left after finishing school at 15 and was a sailor for two years before moving to Norway. He then went to the Netherlands, where he found occasional work as a DJ before finding better opportunities in Germany.In Germany, he worked mostly as a DJ until producer Frank Farian spotted him for his new Boney M. group.
Farian, who also produced most of the vocals for the group, was later the producer for the group Milli Vanilli and caused controversy when he admitted that the guys who fronted the group did not actually sing the songs.Farrell became the sole male singer in Boney M, although Farian later revealed that Bobby made almost no vocal contributions to the group’s records, with Farian himself performing the male parts on the songs in the studio. Liz Mitchell claimed that only she, Marcia Barrett and Farian had sung on the hit recordings. Farrell did, however, perform live in some of the various incarnations of Boney M, including the main 1970s incarnation.During 1978, Boney M. made a much publicized promotional visit to the Soviet Union, one of the very few Western acts along with Elton John to do so, although tracks like “Rasputin” were not released in the Soviet Union due to their lyrics.Farrell left the group in 1981, after clashes with Farian.
He was replaced by Reggie Tsiboe. He re-joined in 1984, and continued as a member until it finally split in 1986.Farrell’s daughter Zanillya Farrell claims that Farian deprived Farrell of his rights over Boney M.’s hits, which caused her father to lose all his income after the band split: “When Dad asked Farian for 100,000 marks he was told to sign some papers. He signed away everything – image rights, royalties, the lot. My father lost everything. We had to move in with my grandmother in the Netherlands and live on welfare. After that, Dad started getting angry a lot. But Mum was very smart and realized if you own the name you can use it. Farian had not registered Boney M all over the world. So that’s why Dad could perform in certain countries.”He subsequently toured with his own group performing the band’s hits under the name “Bobby Farrell’s Boney M.”.
He also appeared as a dancer in late 2005 in the Roger Sanchez video clip of “Turn on the Music.”Farrell lived for many years in Amsterdam, in the neighborhood of Gaasperdam in the borough of Amsterdam-Zuidoost.In 1981 he married Macedonian Romani Jasmine Shaban. They had daughter Zanillya Farrell in 1983 and son Zanin. They split in 1995.He died in a hotel in Saint Petersburg, of heart failure. His agent John Seine said Farrell was complaining of breathing problems after performing with his band the evening before. Farrell’s body was reportedly discovered by hotel staff after he failed to respond to an alarm call. He was buried at Zorgvlied cemetery.His daughter Zanillya Farrell is a rapper. In December 2011, she won the national music prize Grote Prijs van Nederland in the hip hop category.