Benjamin Chase Harper MP

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Birthdate: (43)
Occupation: Singer, Songwriter
Managed by: MRA ♥
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

    • Joanne
      wife
    • Harris
      daughter
    • ex-wife
    • Minor Child
      son
    • Minor Child
      daughter
    • Ellen
      mother
    • Leonard
      father
    • Joel
      brother
    • Peter
      brother

About Benjamin Chase Harper

Benjamin Chase "Ben" Harper (born October 28, 1969) is an American singer-songwriter musician and two-time Grammy Award winner, known for his guitar-playing skills, vocals, live performances and activism.

Harper was born in Claremont, in California's Inland Empire. His father, Leonard, was of African-American and Cherokee ancestry, and his mother, Ellen Chase-Verdries, is Jewish. His maternal great-grandmother was Russian, Jewish and immigrated from Lithuania.[1][2][3] His parents divorced when he was five, and he grew up with his mother's family. Harper has two brothers, Joel and Peter.

Harper began playing guitar as a child.[4] 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 and David Lindley and quotes of William Shakespeare and Robert Frost made often by his grandfather.[5] 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.[6] Harper broke out of the Inland Empire after being offered an invitation by Taj Mahal to tour with the artist. The 20 year-old Harper and the blues legend then recorded Follow the Drinking Ghour(d) and toured Hawaii.[7]

In 1992 Harper recorded the LP Pleasure and Pain with Folk multi-instrumentalist Tom Freund. After this limited edition record, Harper secured a record deal with Virgin Records, which released his debut album, Welcome to the Cruel World in 1994. This was followed by Fight For Your Mind in 1995, which became a college radio favorite and included several songs that Harper still plays live regularly. His 1997 album The Will to Live was the first to feature his backup band the Innocent Criminals.

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.[8]

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.

After several albums without the Innocent Criminals, Harper reconvened that band for the 2007 album, Lifeline, which was recorded in Paris. Harper also covered John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy" on the benefit CD Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur. 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".[9][10] 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.

Harper formed a new band in 2008, Relentless7, with Texas-based musicians Jason Mozersky (guitar), Jesse Ingalls (bass) and Jordan Richardson (drums). The album White Lies for Dark Times, credited to Ben Harper and Relentless7, was released on May 4, 2009. On July 12, 2009, the band performed the closing concert of the 30th Montreal International Jazz Fest. On January 13, 2010, Harper and Relentless7 appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart together with Ringo Starr to perform "Walk With You" and "With a Little Help from My Friends".[11] On January 22, 2010, Harper appeared on the last episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien with Beck and Billy Gibbons playing a Will Ferrell-led rendition of "Freebird".[12]

On December 23, 2005 Harper married his girlfriend of five years, actress Laura Dern. They have two children together, son Ellery Walker Harper (b. August 21, 2001) and daughter Jaya (b. November 24, 2004).