Ben Harper is a celebrated singer-songwriter who performs a mixture of folk, soul, reggae, rock, and blues. He is known for his exceptional guitar-playing skills as well as his vocals, stellar live performances and his noted activism for causes close to his heart. To date, he has released twelve studio albums and has toured around the world with his band The Innocent Criminals. A three-time Grammy Award winner for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album which he snagged in 2005 and later received a Grammy in 2014 for Best Blues Album.
Ben Harper Musical History
Born in Pomona, California, Ben was a mixture of different races that perhaps helped expand his interest in different forms of music. Ben started playing guitar as a small child and was certainly influenced by The Folk Music Center and Museum which were owned by his maternal grandparents at the time.
By 1980, Ben played his first gig at the tender age of 12 and began to expand his skills by playing the slide guitar in a similar fashion to the legendary blues style of Robert Johnson. Harper built upon his talents and received his first big break when he toured with Taj Mahal and subsequently played on his 1990 album “Follow the Drinking Gourd”.
Ben Harper Albums
By 1992, Harper had recorded his first LP “Pleasure and Pain” which was only a limited edition effort. However, from that Harper managed to gain a lifetime recording deal with Virgin Record which released his first full-scale album “Welcome to the Cruel World” in 1994. The success of the album led quickly to “Fight for Your Mind” which was released the following year.
Harper started gaining attention in the college circuit and his audience grew well beyond the blues and folk scene where he first began. As popular as he is in the US, Harper is a far bigger star in place like Europe, Australia, and New Zealand which is reflected in the awards and highly successful tours that he enjoys to this day.
As Ben Harper continues to release albums that show off his considerable skills in a wide variety of music fields, his political voice was also starting to emerge by his participation in Vote for Change in 2004 and recording the song, “Oppression” for the jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. By 2006, Harper released “Both Sides of the Gun” which managed to hit #7 on the Billboard charts and even appear briefly in the film, “Inland Empire”.
Today, Harper is still just as prolific as ever when it comes to releasing new material, touring, and supporting his political beliefs. Over the years, he has helped form a number of bands which support him on his albums and touring which is where the Innocent Criminals come into play as his current band of choice. Ben Harper is still one of the most vibrant, active, and talented musicians in blues, rock, and folk continuing to expand his talents and explore new musical territory.
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