Ben Harper

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For other people named Ben Harper, see Ben Harper (disambiguation).
Ben Harper
Ben Harper 003.jpg
Background information
Birth name Benjamin Chase Harper
Born (1969-10-28) 28 October 1969 (age 45)
Pomona, California
United States
Genres Folk rock, blues rock, alternative rock, soul, funk rock, gospel, reggae, jam rock, neofolk
Occupation(s) Musician, humanitarian
Instruments Vocals, guitar, lap steel guitar, slide guitar, keyboard instruments, piano, bass, drums, percussion, vibes
Years active 1992–present
Labels Virgin, EMI Records
Associated acts Ben Harper and The Blind Boys of Alabama
Relentless7
Vanessa da Mata
Fistful of Mercy
Natalie Maines
Charlie Musselwhite
Website Official web site
Notable instruments
Weissenborn lap steel guitar

Benjamin Chase "Ben" Harper (born 28 October 1969) is an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Harper plays an eclectic mix of blues, folk, soul, reggae and rock music[1] and is known for his guitar-playing skills, vocals, live performances and activism.[2] Harper's fan base spans several continents.[3] His albums have been commercially successful in North America, Europe and Oceania. Harper is a three-time Grammy Award winner as well, winning awards for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album, in 2005. He also won a Grammy for Best Blues Album in 2014.

Early life[edit]

Harper was born in Pomona, California.[4] His father, Leonard, was of African-American and Cherokee ancestry, and his mother, Ellen Chase-Verdries, is Jewish. His maternal great-grandmother was a Russian-Lithuanian Jew.[5][6][7] His parents divorced when he was five years old, and he grew up with his mother's family. Harper has two brothers, Joel and Peter.[8]

Harper began playing guitar as a child.[9][10] His maternal grandparents' music store The Folk Music Center and Museum laid a foundation of folk and blues for the artist, complemented by regular patrons Leonard Cohen, Taj Mahal, John Darnielle, and David Lindley and quotes of William Shakespeare and Robert Frost made often by his grandfather.[11]:5

In 1978, at the age of 9, Harper attended reggae superstar Bob Marley's performance in Burbank, California (joined by former bandmate Peter Tosh in the encore, thus making it a sort of historical performance), which was according to Harper an important influence.[12] At the age of 12, Harper played his first gig.[13] During the '80s, in his teen years, Harper began to play the slide guitar, mimicking the style of Robert Johnson. Harper refined his style, taking up the Weissenborn slide guitar.[11]:11 Harper broke out of the Inland Empire after being offered an invitation by Taj Mahal to tour with the artist. They recorded Taj Mahal's album Follow the Drinking Gourd, released in November 1990, and toured Hawaii.[11]:13

Career[edit]

Harper on stage in 2003

In 1992, Harper recorded the LP Pleasure and Pain with Folk multi-instrumentalist Tom Freund. After this limited edition record, Harper secured a lifetime record deal with Virgin Records,[14] which released his debut album, Welcome to the Cruel World in 1994. This allowed him to be invited at the Rencontres Trans Musicales of Rennes in France in December 1993 where he went up for the first time on a large stage. The first album was followed by Fight For Your Mind in 1995, with Juan Nelson on bass, which became a college radio favorite and included several songs that Harper still plays live regularly.[15]

In 1999, at the Santa Barbara Bowl, Harper met Jack Johnson and sent a demo tape of Johnson's songs to his producer, J.P. Plunier, who then produced Johnson's his first album.[16]

Harper playing the weissenborn in Massey Hall, Toronto, Ontario.

Early in Harper's career, his music received more attention in Europe and was widely played in Australia (first on Triple J radio). Harper has made comments on a number of occasions that his career was kicked off in Australia. While he was a well-known and respected figure in the United States, he was a star in countries like Australia, New Zealand, France, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, receiving a great deal of airplay and critical acclaim. His popularity in Europe is such that he was French Rolling Stone magazine's Artist of the Year (Artiste De L'Année) in 2003,[17] and his Australian tour that year for Diamonds on the Inside was highly successful.

In 2002, Harper was one of the featured singers covering Motown hits by Marvin Gaye in the documentary, Standing in the Shadows of Motown (a history of The Funk Brothers). In October 2004, Harper participated in the Vote for Change concert tour organized to benefit Moveon.org and encourage people in the swing states to vote during the 2004 U.S. presidential election. In the same month, Harper contributed a live recording of the song "Oppression" to For The Lady, a benefit album for jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner and Burmese pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi. In 2006, Harper released the double album Both Sides of the Gun which debuted at #7 on the Billboard charts. Though uncredited, he appears briefly in the 2006 David Lynch film Inland Empire, alongside his wife Laura Dern.

Harper is part of the No Nukes group which is against the expansion of nuclear power. In 2007 the group recorded a music video of a new version of the Buffalo Springfield song "For What It's Worth".[18][19] Harper's collaboration "Boa Sorte/Good Luck" with Brazilian singer Vanessa da Mata peaked at #1 in Brazil and Portugal. In Brazil it also won a highly coveted Prêmio Multishow for "Best Song" in 2008. Also in 2008, Harper participated in the benefit album Songs for Tibet.

On 27 August 2010, it was reported that Ben Harper had formed a band called Fistful of Mercy with Dhani Harrison and Joseph Arthur.[20] Fistful of Mercy released their debut record, As I Call You Down, on 5 October 2010.[21]

On 17 May 2011, Ben Harper's official site posted that his next album was released, entitled Give Till It's Gone. The album is a continuation of recording with Relentless7.[22]

On 1 October 2012, a new album from Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite was announced entitled Get Up! on Stax Records / Concord Music Group. The official release date for the album is January 29, 2013. Get Up! was recorded in Los Angeles and produced by Ben Harper. It is Ben's 12th studio album and first new recording since 2011's Give Till It's Gone (Virgin).[23]

In December 2012, it was announced that Ben Harper had co-produced lead vocalist Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks first solo rock album Mother.[24] It was released on May 7, 2013.[25]

Personal life[edit]

Harper with his second wife Laura Dern in December 2009

In 1996, Harper married his first wife, Joanna.[26] They have two children together, son Charles (born circa 1997) and daughter Harris (born circa 2000).[26] Harper and Joanna separated in 2000, and were divorced in 2001.[26]

Harper began dating actress Laura Dern after they met at one of his concerts in fall 2000.[26] Harper and Dern married on December 23, 2005 at their home in Los Angeles.[27] They have two children,[4] son Ellery Walker (born August 2001)[26] and daughter Jaya (born November 2004).[28] In October 2010, Harper filed for divorce from Dern, citing irreconcilable differences.[29] They briefly reconciled and attended the 2012 Golden Globe Awards together,[29] but Dern reactivated the divorce by filing a legal response in July 2012.[29] The divorce was finalized in September 2013.[30]

Philanthropy[edit]

Harper supports Little Kids Rock, a national nonprofit organization that works to restore and revitalize music education in disadvantaged U.S. public schools. In 2013, he donated items to their San Francisco Bay Area benefit concert.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Show Award/Nomination
2003 Rolling Stone (France) Artist of the Year
2005 Grammy Award Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance
2005 Grammy Award Grammy Award for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album
2014 Grammy Award Grammy Award for Best Blues Album

Discography[edit]

Studio albums

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Notes
1998–2001 Daria Episode: "See Jane Run" (Song: "Faded")
Episode: "Camp Fear" (Song: "Born to Shine")
2001 I Am Sam Song: "Strawberry Fields Forever"
2002 Standing in the Shadows of Motown Songs: "Ain't Too Proud To Beg"/"I Heard It Through the Grapevine"
Searching for Debra Winger Song: "The Three of Us"
2003 rage Episode: "Grinspoon Guest Program Rage"
Song: "Ground on Down"
One Tree Hill Episode: "Crash Into You"
Song: "Empty Apartment"
Joan of Arcadia Episode: "Death Be Not Whatever"
Song: "Blessed to Be a Witness"
2004 Saturday Night Live Episode: "Donald Trump/Toots and the Maytals"
Song: "Love Gonna Walk Out on Me"
Sleepover Song: "Way Away"
2005 Trust the Man Song: "Everything"
2006 Akeelah and the Bee Song: "Everything"
The O.C. Episode: "The Dawn Patrol"
Song: "Waiting For You"
CSI: NY Episode: "And Here's to You, Mrs. Azrael"
Song: "Walk Away"
Ultimate Sessions Song: "Whipping Boy"
2007 Arctic Tale Song: "Happy Ever After in Your Eyes"
2008 Henry Poole Is Here Song: "Morning Yearning"
Wetlands Preserved: The Story of an Activist Nightclub Song: "People Lead"
Daylight Robbery Song: "Diamonds On The Inside"
2009 State of Play Song: "Please Don't Talk About Murder While I'm Eating"
House Episode: "Brave Heart"
Song: "Faithfully Remain"
2010 Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Episode: 2.152 (Song: "Father's Song")
Episode: 2.7 (Songs: "With a Little Help from My Friends", "Walk With You")
Les Petits Mouchoirs Song: "Amen Omen"
Vampire Diaries Episode: Katerina
Song: "Amen Omen"
The Fighter Song: "Glory & Consequence"
Close to the Dream Song: "Better Way"
2010-2011 Conan Episode: 11/10/2010 (Song: "Father's Son")
Episode: 5/25/2011 (Song: "Rock n' Roll is Free")
2011 Wretches & Jabberers Song: "More Like You"
2012 The Girl Song: "Waiting on an Angel"
Redfern Now Episode: Raymond
Song: "Not Fire Not Ice"
Bones Brigade: An Autobiography
2010-2013 Late Show with David Letterman Episode 2/2/2012 (Song: "Lay There & Hate Me")
Episode 5/18/2011 (Song: "Rock n' Roll is Free")
Episode 4/29/2013 (Song: "We Can't End This Way")
2011-2013 The Tonight Show with Jay Leno Episode 5/24/2011 (Song: "Rock n' Roll is Free")
Episode 11/18/2011 (Song: "Save the Hammer for the Man")
1/22/2013 (Song: "I Don't Believe a Word You Say")
2014 The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson Episode: 06/13/2014
Song: "Learn It All Again Tomorrow"

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ben Harper Explores Rock With Relentless7
  2. ^ Interview regarding touring and activisim.
  3. ^ Celebrity Gossip Bio
  4. ^ a b "Ben Harper". Rolling Stone magazine article. Jann Wenner. 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  5. ^ Ben Harper | Roots | Part one
  6. ^ Ben Harper - Every Facet Of The Diamond
  7. ^ Hodgkinson, Will (14 February 2003). "Blood in the tracks". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  8. ^ "Ben Harper Biography". Lyrics Freak. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  9. ^ "Ben Harper | Roots | Part one". Swer.net. Retrieved 31 December 2011. 
  10. ^ "Celebrity Jews | j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California". Jewishsf.com. 11 February 2005. Retrieved 31 December 2011. 
  11. ^ a b c Appleford, Steve. "I'll Rise: The Music and Message of Ben Harper" Page 5. Essay published in the Ben Harper CD Box Collection. Released 4 April 2000.
  12. ^ BobMarley.com | Ben Harper Discusses Bob Marley
  13. ^ Ben Harper Ask Men Interview
  14. ^ Randy Bachman, VinylTap, CBC Radio, 7 July 2012
  15. ^ Ben Harper Billboard Biography
  16. ^ Harper takes both sides - The Honolulu Advertiser - Hawaii's Newspaper
  17. ^ Ben Harper Biography
  18. ^ "For What It's Worth," No Nukes Reunite After Thirty Years
  19. ^ Musicians Act to Stop New Atomic Reactors
  20. ^ "George Harrison's son, Ben Harper form a band". CNN. 27 August 2010. 
  21. ^ "Consequence of Sound". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 31 December 2011. 
  22. ^ "Give Till It's Gone | The Official Ben Harper Website". Benharper.com. 17 May 2011. Retrieved 31 December 2011. 
  23. ^ "Get Up! | The Official Ben Harper Website". Benharper.com. 1 October 2012. Retrieved 1 October 2012. 
  24. ^ "The Official Natalie Maines Music Site". Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  25. ^ "Tweet by @1NatalieMaines". Twitter. 19 December 2012. Retrieved 21 December 2012. Good news! I made some calls and had them push the end of the world to sometime after the release of my album, #Mother 5/7/13. You're welcome. 
  26. ^ a b c d e Miller, Samantha (February 4, 2002). "Dern Happy". People. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Actress Laura Dern Marries Ben Harper". People. December 23, 2005. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Laura Dern gives birth to a daughter". Today. November 2004. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  29. ^ a b c Johnson, Zach (July 9, 2012). "Laura Dern Reactivates Dormant Divorce From Ben Harper". Us Weekly. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Laura Dern, Ben Harper Divorce Is Finalized". Huffington Post. September 11, 2013. Retrieved September 11, 2013. 

External links[edit]