Jerry Harrison

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jerry Harrison
close-up of Jerry Harrison wearing a dark sleeveless top, looking left of camera with a set facial expression
Harrison in 2023
Background information
Birth nameJeremiah Griffin Harrison
Born (1949-02-21) February 21, 1949 (age 74)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • Vocals
  • keyboards
  • guitar
  • bass
Years active1971–present
LabelsEMI, Sire/Warner Bros.
Formerly ofThe Modern Lovers, Talking Heads

Jeremiah Griffin Harrison (born February 21, 1949) is an American musician, songwriter, producer, and entrepreneur.[1] He began his professional music career as a member of the band the Modern Lovers, before becoming keyboardist and guitarist for the new wave group Talking Heads.[2] In 2002, Harrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Talking Heads.[3]

Following David Byrne's announcement of Talking Heads' disbanding in 1991,[4] Harrison has focused more on producing other bands, a role he started while still with Talking Heads, first producing the album Milwaukee with Elliott Murphy, and then later working with Violent Femmes on their third album, The Blind Leading the Naked, in 1986.[5][6]

During the 1990s, he produced a number of hit albums for bands such as Live, The Verve Pipe, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd among others. He has also released three albums of solo music (all while Talking Heads were still active) and has participated in a number of partial reunions of Talking Heads. In 1999, he helped found the online music community

Early life[edit]

Harrison was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[1] He was exposed to artistic fields from a young age, his mother studied art and taught at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Layton School of Art, his father was a musician and worked as an executive in an advertisement firm. Harrison graduated from Shorewood High School (Wisconsin).[7] where he played in many bands, was in the debate club, the student council, the youth club, the math club, also played basketball and was a part of the track team. He later attended Harvard College where he graduated Magna Cum Laude in Visual and Environmental Studies in 1972 with his bachelor thesis being about the fields of painting, sculpture and drawing.[8]


The Modern Lovers[edit]

In 1972, Harrison met Jonathan Richman, and they formed the Modern Lovers.[9] Harrison was introduced to Richman by mutual friend and journalist Danny Fields and the pair bonded over their shared love of the Velvet Underground. He joined The Modern Lovers in early 1971, playing on their debut album in 1972 in California (not released until 1976 and produced by John Cale), and left in February 1974,[1] when Richman wished to perform his songs more quietly. Devastated by the breakup of the band, Harrison returned to Harvard to get his Master's degree in architecture.

Talking Heads[edit]

Harrison joined Talking Heads in 1977, after the release of their debut single, "Love → Building on Fire".[10] He was offered a spot in the band in 1976, while he was still studying at Harvard. Tina Weymouth phoned Harrison to ask him to come and see Talking Heads play in Boston, not knowing he had already seen them and had been impressed by their material. After the performance, Harrison did not give a precise answer about whether he would join the group. In September 1976, Harrison told Weymouth he would come to New York City to jam with the band, but he did not have enough money to take a bus. He instead helped his friend, former Harvard classmate and Modern Lovers bassist, Ernie Brooks move to New York, hitching a ride with him in the process.

Harrison designed the cover for the band's third album in 1979, Fear of Music, which received a Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package. Between tours, Harrison started producing records, working with a group called the Escalators in New York and also New Wave soul singer Nona Hendryx. In 1980, Remain In Light caused a dispute in the band due to the credits when Harrison was given additional writing credit for "The Overload" and "Houses in Motion" alongside Brian Eno and David Byrne.

In 1984, Harrison heard a recording on the radio of President Ronald Reagan, apparently from an off-air hot mic soundcheck saying, "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." Though many people had heard of the joke, most had never actually heard the recording itself. Believing it summed up the entire Reagan presidency, Harrison tracked down a copy of the tape through a college radio station and then worked with co-producer Daniel Lazerus and funk bassist Bootsy Collins to create a song. "If the song is a hit," Harrison quipped, "I'll be willing to share royalties with 'lyricist' Ronald Reagan."[11] When the song, "Five Minutes (Bonzo Goes to Washington)", was completed, no major label could guarantee a release before the 1984 Presidential election, so Harrison chose micro-label Sleeping Bag Records to release it in October 1984.

Solo career[edit]

Harrison has released three solo albums. Many have assumed that the title of his debut, The Red and the Black in 1981, derived from Stendhal's novel of the same name. But in 2021, Harrison admitted that the name was inspired by the group of Situationists. Some members who had come to the United States to join the protests at Harvard against the Vietnam War ended up living in Harrison's room and would constantly talk about their philosophy and Wilhelm Reich, which fascinated Harrison. From this time, Harrison remembered a pamphlet that Guy Debord created named "The Red and The Black" and he "just really liked" the title. The main thoughts behind the album were the ideas of communism and anarchism.[12]

In 1988, he created Casual Gods, recorded in Milwaukee in a bomb shelter-turned studio by the brother of Harrison's best friend in elementary school. During the day Harrison took care of his mother and during the night he worked at the studio.[13] The track "Man with a Gun" was featured in the 1988 film Two Moon Junction, and the instrumental version of the same song was used in the 1986 Jonathan Demme film Something Wild. The single "Rev It Up" reached a high-point of number seven on the US Mainstream Charts in April 1988;[14] In an interview, Harrison recounts taping the music video with a room full of babies.[15]

Harrison's last solo work was Walk on Water, in 1990.[1]

Post-Talking Heads[edit]

After the 1991 breakup of Talking Heads, Harrison turned to producing and worked on albums by bands including Hockey, Violent Femmes, The BoDeans, The Von Bondies, General Public, Live, Crash Test Dummies, The Verve Pipe, Poi Dog Pondering, Rusted Root, Stroke 9, The Bogmen, Black 47, The Mayfield Four, Of A Revolution, No Doubt, Turkuaz, Josh Joplin Group, The Black and White Years, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Bamboo Shoots, the String Cheese Incident and The Gracious Few.[1] He was also Chairman of the Board for, an internet music resource he co-founded in 1999.[16] As of 2015, Harrison is the founder and chairman of the board at RedCrow, which is a web based direct investment platform that connects financial and human capital to healthcare start-ups as "a community who share knowledge, interest and passion for healthcare innovation."[17][18]

In 2021, Harrison joined Turkuaz and Adrian Belew for a series of shows celebrating forty years of the album Remain in Light, in his first public performances since the 1996 tour to support No Talking, Just Head.[19]

Film work[edit]

Harrison, as a member of Talking Heads, is featured throughout the 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense, directed by Jonathan Demme. Also during the Talking Heads era, Harrison made cameo appearances as Billy Idol, Kid Creole and Prince look-alike lip-synchers in David Byrne's 1986 film True Stories. Harrison also had a small part in the 2006 film The Darwin Awards as "Guy in Bar No. 1" alongside John Doe of the band X.[20]


Talking Heads[edit]

Solo albums[edit]

Year Title US AUS[21] NZ AUT GER SUI
1981 The Red and the Black
1988 Casual Gods 78 18 4 17 31 10
1990 Walk on Water 188


Year Title US Main. US Modern AUS [22] NZ GER UK
1981 "Things fall apart"
1984 "Five Minutes"
1988 "Rev It Up" 7 3 6 45 90
1988 "Man with a Gun" 17 15
1988 "Cherokee Chief"
1990 "Flying Under Radar" 42 13 98

The Heads[edit]

1996 No Talking Just Head


Year Album Artist
1986 Milwaukee Elliott Murphy
The Blind Leading the Naked Violent Femmes
1987 Outside Looking In BoDeans
1991 Mental Jewelry Live
1992 Volo Volo Poi Dog Pondering
Purefunalia Pure
Bush Roaming Mammals Billy Goat
1993 God Shuffled His Feet Crash Test Dummies
1994 Throwing Copper Live
Home of the Brave Black 47
1995 Rub It Better General Public
Lost in the Former West The Fatima Mansions
Life Begins at 40 Million The Bogmen
1996 Villains The Verve Pipe
Remember Rusted Root
No Talking, Just Head The Heads
Neurotic Outsiders Neurotic Outsiders
1997 Trouble Is... Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Beautiful World Big Head Todd and the Monsters
1998 Fallout The Mayfield Four
Useful Music Josh Joplin Group
1999 The Distance to Here Live
Nasty Little Thoughts Stroke 9
Live On Kenny Wayne Shepherd
I'd Rather Eat Glass Bijou Phillips
2000 Watering Ghost Garden Creeper Lagoon
Shine Pat McGee Band
Return of Saturn No Doubt
2001 Take Back the Universe and Give Me Yesterday Creeper Lagoon
Stroke 9 Stroke 9
2002 Rip It Off Stroke 9
2003 Love The Juliana Theory
2004 Pawn Shoppe Heart The Von Bondies
2005 Stories of a Stranger O.A.R.
2007 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads Kenny Wayne Shepherd
2008 The Black and White Years The Black and White Years
2011 How I Go Kenny Wayne Shepherd
2013 Can't Get Enough The Rides
2014 The Turn Live
Song in My Head The String Cheese Incident
2017 Believe The String Cheese Incident
2018 Bi/MENTAL Le Butcherettes
2019 Wonder Park: Music from the Motion Picture Various artists


  1. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (2003). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 236/7. ISBN 1-85227-969-9.
  2. ^ Bush, John. "Biography – Jerry Harrison". AllMusic. Retrieved March 21, 2012.
  3. ^ "Talking Heads". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  4. ^ Bream, Jon (December 8, 1991). "When It Stops Making Sense, It's Time to Call It Quits". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 4, 2023. Retrieved March 4, 2023.
  5. ^ "Jerry Harrison: A Life In Music". Archived from the original on March 4, 2023. Retrieved March 4, 2023.
  6. ^ "Milwaukee – Elliott Murphy". Archived from the original on March 4, 2023. Retrieved March 4, 2023.
  7. ^ "Shorewood stars align for fund-raiser". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 25, 2010. Accessed March 17, 2012.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 13, 2022. Retrieved January 11, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ Malcolm Jack (September 21, 2016). "The Guardian – Talking Heads – 10 of the best". The Guardian. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  10. ^ Palmer, Robert (April 14, 1982). "The Pop Life". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
  11. ^ Bowman, Dave (2001). Fa fa fa fa fa fa: The Adventures of Talking Heads in the 20th Century. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 0-7475-4586-3
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 13, 2022. Retrieved January 11, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 13, 2022. Retrieved January 11, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Mainstream Rock Airplay Chart". Billboard. November 28, 2013.
  15. ^ "Jerry Harrison". YouTube.
  16. ^ "Jerry Harrison Bio". Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  17. ^ "LinkedIn". Retrieved May 26, 2022.
  18. ^ "RedCrow: Equity Crowdfunding – the RedCrow Team".
  19. ^ Greene, Andy (January 13, 2020). "Talking Heads Guitarist Jerry Harrison on His 2020 'Remain in Light' Anniversary Tour". Music. Rolling Stone. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved August 18, 2023.
  20. ^ Dunne, Susan (August 31, 2007). "'DARWIN AWARDS' A STUPIDITY PRIZE WINNER". Hartford Courant. Archived from the original on October 9, 2020. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  21. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 134. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  22. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010 (PDF ed.). Mt Martha, Victoria, Australia: Moonlight Publishing. p. 125.

External links[edit]