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 and is known for his guitar-playing skills, vocals, live performances and activism. Harper's fan base spans several continents. His albums have been commercially successful in North America, Europe and Oceania. Harper is a two-time Grammy Award winner as well, winning awards for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album, in 2005.
Harper was born in Pomona, California. 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. His parents divorced when he was age five, and he grew up with his mother's family. Harper has two brothers, Joel and Peter.
Harper began playing guitar as a child. 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.
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. At the age of 12, Harper played his first gig. During the '80s, in his teen years, Harper began to play the slide guitar, mimicking the style of Robert Johnson. Next, Harper refined his style, taking up the Weissenborn slide guitar. 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.
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, 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.
In 1999 at the Santa Barbara Bowl, Harper met Jack Johnson, who was unknown at the time and had not recorded. Harper obtained a demo tape of twelve of Johnson's songs that he forwarded to his producer, J.P. Plunier, with whom Johnson recorded his first album.
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, 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". 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. Fistful of Mercy released their debut record, As I Call You Down, on 5 October 2010.
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.
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).
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. It will be released on May 7, 2013.
In 1996, Harper married his first wife, Joanna. They have two children, a son and daughter, Charles Joseph and Harris.
On 23 December 2005, Harper married his girlfriend of five years, actress Laura Dern. They have two children together, son Ellery Walker Harper (b. 21 August 2001) and daughter Jaya (b. 24 November 2004). In October 2010, Harper filed for divorce from Dern, citing irreconcilable differences. They briefly reconciled and attended the 2012 Golden Globes together, but Dern re-filed the divorce papers in July 2012.
- iTunes Originals - Ben Harper
- iTunes Must Haves - Ben Harper
- "Like A King / Whipping Boy" (1994)
- "Ground on Down" (1995)
- "Excuse Me Mr." (1996)
- "Gold to Me" (1996)
- "Faded" (1997) #43 Australia, #54 UK
- "Jah Work" (1997)
- "Glory & Consequence" (1997)
- "Please Bleed" (1999)
- "Burn to Shine" (1999)
- "Forgiven" (2000) #50 Australia
- "Steal My Kisses" (2000) #15 U.S. Adult Top 40
- "With My Own Two Hands" (2003)
- "Diamonds On the Inside" (2003) #31 U.S. Adult Top 40, #68 Australia
- "Brown Eyed Blues" (2004)
- "Wicked Man" (2004)
- "There Will Be a Light" (2004)
- "Better Way" (2006)
- "Both Sides Of The Gun" (2006)
- "Morning Yearning" (2006)
- "Fight Outta You" (2007) #61 Hot Canadian Digital Charts
- "Boa Sorte/Good Luck" (2007) (with Vanessa da Mata) #1 Portugal; #1 Brazil
- "In The Colors" (2008)
- "Fool For A Lonesome Train" (2008)
- "Shimmer & Shine" (2009)
- "Fly One Time" (2009)
- "Lay There & Hate Me" (2010)
- "Skin Thin" (2010)
- "The Word Suicide" (2010)
- "Never Tear Us Apart" (with INXS) (2010)
- "Rock N' Roll Is Free" (2011)
- "Don't Give Up on Me Now (2011, Italy only)
- "I Don't Believe A Word You Say" (2012)
Ben Harper appeared on John Mayer's The Village Sessions EP for the song Waiting on the World to Change. The album was released on December 12, 2006.
Harper played a slide guitar version of the "Star-Spangled Banner" prior to Game 3 of the 2007 NBA Finals on 12 June in Cleveland. Harper performed alongside Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson and John Paul Jones at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in 2007. He also appears on the 2003 Pearl Jam DVD Live at the Garden where Harper plays alongside friends Pearl Jam for the songs "Daughter" & "Indifference".
Harper performed at several "Vote Obama" rallies and on the Willie Nelson show Outlaws & Angels. Harper teamed with the Skatalites to perform Fats Domino's "Be My Guest" on Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino. Harper was featured, alongside Jack Johnson, playing slide guitar with Toots and the Maytals, performing their 1970s reggae hit "Pressure Drop" on Saturday Night Live.
In January 2010, Harper and his band Relentless7 performed at the Grammy Museum with Ringo Starr in support of The Beatles drummer's self-produced album, Y Not. In early 2010, Harper also performed "Ohio" at the MusiCares tribute to Neil Young.
In July 2011, Harper performed as the headline musician at the Saturday in the Park music festival in Sioux City, IA.
- 1998-2001: Daria (TV) – Camp Fear ("Born to Shine"/"Faded")
- 2001: I am Sam ("Strawberry Fields Forever")
- 2002: Standing in the Shadows of Motown ("Ain't Too Proud To Beg"/"I Heard It Through the Grapevine")
- 2003: One Tree Hill (TV) – Crash Into You
- 2004: Sleepover ("Way Away")
- 2005: Trust the Man ("Everything")
- 2006: Akeelah and the Bee ("Everything")
- 2006: Newport Beach (TV) – The Dawn Patrol ("Waiting For You")
- 2006: CSI: NY (TV) – And Here's to You, Mrs. Azrael ("Walk Away")
- 2008: Daylight Robbery ("Diamonds On The Inside")
- 2009: State of Play ("Please Don't Talk About Murder While I'm Eating")
- 2009: Dr House (TV) – Brave Heart ("Faithfully Remain")
- 2010: Conan (TV) – Dead Men Don't Wear Spanx ("Father's Son")
- 2010: Les Petits Mouchoirs (French Movie) - Ludo's death ("Amen Omen")
- 2010: Vampire Diaries (TV) – Katerina ("Amen Omen")
- 2010: The Fighter ("Glory & Consequence")
- 2012: Bones Brigade: An Autobiography
- Pleasure and Pain (2002)
- Live at the Hollywood Bowl (2003)
- Live at the Apollo (2005)
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