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Ben Harper

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Biography

Guitarist, songwriter, and bandleader Ben Harper enjoyed cult status on the jam band scene in the 1990s largely due to the success of his debut album, Welcome to the Cruel World, and its follow-up, Fight for Your Mind, before gaining wider attention near the decade's end. During the 21st century, he transcended the genre to become a wildly diverse performer, collaborator and sideman who has worked with artists ranging from the Blind Boys of Alabama and Charlie Musselwhite to John Mayer. Harper drew his influences from classic singer/songwriters, blues revivalists, guitar slingers, and jam bands like Blues Traveler and Phish, which meant he was embraced by critics and college kids alike. Despite finding commercial success with the radio single "Steal My Kisses" in 2000, Harper continued to explore different (and often challenging) musical textures during the early 21st century, enjoying a solid fan base at home and a considerable amount of fame in Europe, where was named 2003's Artist of the Year by the French branch of Rolling Stone. A native of California, Harper grew up listening to blues, folk, soul, R&B, and reggae. He started playing guitar as a child and began to perform regularly as a preteen. During his adolescence, he focused heavily on the acoustic slide guitar, which eventually became his signature instrument. Harper scored a deal with Virgin Records in 1992 after maintaining a steady schedule of shows in the L.A. area; two years later, he released his debut album, Welcome to the Cruel World, to positive reviews. Released in 1995, the politically heavy Fight for Your Mind made for a strong sophomore effort, an obvious growth in musical experimentation and individual declamation. It was also the songwriter's first record to later reach gold status. Harper's third album, 1997's The Will to Live, pushed his blues-oriented alternative folk into the middle mainstream, becoming a mainstay at college radio and making inroads at adult alternative radio. Recorded over two years of touring in support of Fight for Your Mind, The Will to Live also introduced the Innocent Criminals, Harper's longstanding backup band. The Innocent Criminals -- bassist Juan Nelson, drummer Dean Butterworth, and percussionist David Leach -- helped solidify Harper's musical rhythms and emotional diversity over the years to come. Harper's career gained momentum during 1998 and 1999. One of his most successful albums to date, 1999's Burn to Shine, blended his fondness of '20s jazz compositions with urban beatboxing, resulting in a clever and passionate collection of songs. "Steal My Kisses" and "Suzie Blue" were radio favorites, landing him two headlining world tours and an opening spot on the Dave Matthews Band's annual summer trek in 2000. The following spring, Harper issued Live from Mars, a double-disc of live electric and acoustic material spanning the previous year's tour and including covers of material by Led Zeppelin, the Verve, and Marvin Gaye. Harper dove into worldbeat on his fifth studio effort, Diamonds on the Inside, which appeared in March 2003. He toured through Europe the following year with the Blind Boys of Alabama, and the two acts entered Capitol Records' basement studios after the tour's commencement to lay down ten tracks together. The resulting collaborative album (issued under the names of both Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama), There Will Be a Light, was released in September 2004, followed by the concert CD/DVD package Live at the Apollo in 2005. Eager to release more material, Harper reconvened the Innocent Criminals and issued the double album Both Sides of the Gun in March 2006. The album reached number seven on the Billboard album charts and rose to number one in Australia. While touring in support of the record, Harper and company began playing a new slew of songs during their evening soundchecks, eventually decamping to Paris and recording the new material within one week. This resulted in two records -- Lifeline and Live at Twist and Shout Records -- both of which were issued in 2007. For his 2009 album, White Lies for Dark Times, Harper recorded with the band Relentless7, the members of whom had previously worked with Harper on the track "Serve Your Soul" from Both Sides of the Gun. Harper & the Relentless7 recorded Live from the Montreal International Jazz Festival in July 2009 and released the album early the following year. Afterwards, Harper began working on his first solo album in years, using Jackson Browne's basement as a recording studio and collaborating with Ringo Starr on two tracks. The album's first single, "Rock n' Roll Is Free," was released during the early spring of 2011, followed two months later by the full-length Give Till It's Gone, and in 2012 by the career retrospective By My Side. Harper then moved over to Stax and teamed with blues legend Charlie Musselwhite for 2013's collaboratively released Get Up! It won the 2014 Grammy for Best Blues Album Harper went back to his roots on his next offering. He teamed with his mother, Ellen Harper, a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist in her own right, and the director of The Folk Music Center and Museum in Claremont, California -- which his grandparents founded -- for the recording Childhood Home. Ellen wrote four tunes on the set while Ben wrote six, and they performed together throughout. The set was issued by Concord in May of 2014. Next, Harper reunited with his band the Innocent Criminals for 2016's Call It What It Is, the group's first studio album since 2007's Lifeline. In 2017, Harper and Musselwhite announced a second collaborative album in January of 2018 by issuing the title track single to No Mercy in This Land. A second single, "The Bottle Wins Again," was released in March followed by the album on the 30th. ~ MacKenzie Wilson
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Top Tracks

  1.   Track
    Popularity
  2.   Burn One Down
  3.   Steal My Kisses by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
  4.   Another Lonely Day
  5.   In the Colors by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
  6.   Walk Away
  7.   With My Own Two Hands
  8.   Diamonds on the Inside
  9.   Waiting on an Angel
  10.   Forever
  11.   Sexual Healing
  12.   Get It Like You Like It
  13.   Brown Eyed Blues
  14.   Strawberry Fields Forever
  15.   Pleasure and Pain
  16.   Better Way
  17.   The Woman in You by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
  18.   Rock N' Roll Is Free
  19.   Gold to Me
  20.   I Ride at Dawn by Charlie Musselwhite
  21.   The Bottle Wins Again
  22.   She Got Kick by Charlie Musselwhite
  23.   A House Is a Home
  24.   Medley: Like a King/I'll Rise by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
  25.   Farmer's Daughter by Ellen Harper
  26.   We Can't End This Way
  27.   Get Up!
  28.   Both Sides of the Gun
  29.   Faded
  30.   Excuse Me Mr.
  31.   Roses From My Friends
  32.   Everything
  33.   Welcome to the Cruel World
  34.   Breakin' Down
  35.   Morning Yearning
  36.   By My Side
  37.   Like a King
  38.   Mama's Got a Girlfriend Now
  39.   Glory & Consequence
  40.   Shimmer and Shine
  41.   I'll Rise
  42.   Clearly Severely
  43.   In the Lord's Arms by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
  44.   Please Me Like You Want To
  45.   Waiting on an Angel by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
  46.   Power of the Gospel by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
  47.   Heart Of Matters by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
  48.   There Will Be a Light
  49.   Mother Pray
  50.   She's Only Happy in the Sun
  51.   Picture of Jesus
  52.   Blessed to Be a Witness
  53.   Excuse Me Mr.
  54.   Sweet Nothing Serenade
  55.   Reason to Mourn
  56.   Oppression
  57.   Break Your Heart #2
  58.   Boy Meets Girl
  59.   When I Go by Charlie Musselwhite
  60.   Trust You To Dig My Grave
  61.   Nothing At All
  62.   Found The One
  63.   When I Go
  64.   No Mercy In This Land by Charlie Musselwhite
  65.   Walk With You
  66.   Memories of Gold by Ellen Harper
  67.   Fight Outta You by Innocent Criminals
  68.   Keep It Together (So I Can Fall Apart)
  69.   All That Matters Now
  70.   I Don't Believe a Word You Say
  71.   If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again
  72.   Spilling Faith
  73.   Don't Give Up on Me Now
  74.   Do It for You, Do It for Us
  75.   Dirty Little Lover
  76.   Another Lonely Day by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
  77.   Silent Night by The Blind Boys of Alabama
  78.   The Word Suicide
  79.   Skin Thin
  80.   Lay There & Hate Me
  81.   Fly One Time
  82.   Not Fire, Not Ice
  83.   Glory & Consequences
  84.   Walk Away
  85.   Having Wings by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
  86.   Say You Will by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
  87.   Needed You Tonight by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
  88.   Forgiven by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
  89.   Beloved One by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
  90.   Serve Your Soul
  91.   Please Don't Talk About Murder While I'm Eating
  92.   Gather 'Round the Stone
  93.   Engraved Invitation
  94.   Happy Everafter in Your Eyes
  95.   More Than Sorry
  96.   Never Leave Lonely Alone
  97.   Waiting for You
  98.   Church on Time
  99.   Satisfied Mind
  100.   Well, Well, Well
  101.   11th Commandment
  102.   Church House Steps
  103.   Where Could I Go
  104.   Take My Hand
  105.   So High So Low
  106.   Bring the Funk
  107.   My Father's House
  108.   Alone
  109.   Beloved One
  110.   Steal My Kisses
  111.   Please Bleed