If I fall, I fall. I'll rise up like anybody else.
I refuse to make uninspired music. -Ben Harper
Not one to constrict himself, as well as his musical style, to more than one medium, Ben Harper has released albums and toured with a large and diverse variety of musicians. Starting in the band Thirsty Dog, Harper began his “solo” soon after with the help of fellow Thirsty Dog member Tom Freund. Harper has also released albums with The Innocent Criminals (present on the majority of his albums), The Blind Boys of Alabama and his newest band, The Relentless7. Harper has also toured with such artists as Pearl Jam, Taj Mahal, Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews.
Harper began playing guitar as a child, taking up slide guitar and eventually the Weissenborn guitar. He toured as a backing musician for Taj Mahal, and recorded with him for the album Follow the Drinking Gourd.
Ben Harper’s career was jump-started through tours in Europe and Australia, where he is much more popular than he is in America. He has stated numerous times that Australia was most important to his beginnings as an artist. Despite his increasing popularity in America he is still a much bigger name in Europe, even appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone in France as their artist of the year in 2003 and filling arenas throughout Australia.
In 2005 Harper won two Grammy’s for his work with The Blind Boys of Alabama. He won for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for the song 11th Commandment, as well as one for Best Traditional Gospel Album for There Will Be A Light.
Harper has also appeared on the Vote for Change Tour in 2004, which featured other politically charged artists such as Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, My Morning Jacket and Death Cab for Cutie.
The Relentless7 are Ben Harper’s newest backing band. They consist of Harper on slide guitar and vocals, Jason Mozersky on lead guitar, Jesse Ingalls on bass and keys, and Jordan Richardson on drums.
Harper has stated that he will continue to play with The Innocent Criminals, and is using this new band to compose music of a different style. Compared to the mellower style that Harper is currently playing with The Innocent Criminals, the music of The Relentless7 is taking a harder, edgier approach.
I'm really looking forward to, not more of the same, but a continual growth. -Ben Harper
Ben Harper has produced many albums, many with the aforementioned Innocent Criminals. He has also appeared on many albums by other artists, contributing songs or simply backing up the artist.
*******I have not included There Will Be a Light with the Blind Boys of Alabama, as stylistically this album is not similar to the music performed by the Relentless7.**********
Pleasure and Pain (1992) - This is Harper’s first album, written with Tom Freund. It was released as an LP, with only 1500 copies pressed. The album contains many songs that would later appear on Welcome to the Cruel World, however the tracks on Pleasure and Pain are mostly without backing instruments. Key Tracks: “Pay the Man” “Dust My Broom” “Pleasure and Pain”
Welcome to the Cruel World (1994) - This is Harper’s first album on Virgin Records. After the album was released, Harper added the backing ensemble of The Innocent Criminals for the first time. This album showcases Harper’s folkier side which, while not similar to The Relentless7, is still fantastic music to listen to. Key Tracks: “Forever” “Walk Away” “I’ll Rise”
Fight for Your Mind (1995) - In this album, Harper escapes from solely focusing on folkier, softer music, and instead expands to numerous styles. The Innocent Criminals back him on this album, however they are not credited as “The Innocent Criminals.” This album jumps around stylistically, with Harper playing folk, rock, gospel and even hard rock. He also introduces both his spiritual and political views on the album with songs such as “Excuse Me Mr.” and “Power of the Gospel.” Songs such as “Ground on Down” are reminiscent as to what The Relentless7 will play, as it involves heavily distorted slide guitar, as well as a heavier over all feel. Key Tracks: “Ground on Down” “Another Lonely Day” “Burn One Down”
The Will to Live (1997) - This is Harper’s second album with The Innocent Criminals, and further continues his progression of music, with this album featuring a very rock-centric focus. When talking about the album, Harper said that he could never continue to make the same sounding album, and that he appreciates the challenge of re-inventing himself. While the album still does contain the folk elements present in his prior albums, it has many of the rock aspects that Harper is using with The Relentless7, especially evident in tracks like “Faded,” “Glory and Consequence” and “The Will to Live.” Key Tracks: “Faded” “The Will to Live” “Roses From My Friends”
Burn to Shine (1999) - This is the first album by Harper that is credited as “Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals.” This album showcases a much fuller rock feel, with folk sprinkled throughout. Harper also shows his love of gospel music on this album, as apparent in songs like “In the Lord’s Arms.” Songs like “Less,” “Please Bleed,” “The Women in You” and “Forgiven” showcase a style related to the Relentless7. Key Tracks: “Please Bleed” “Forgiven” “Less”
Diamonds on the Inside (2003) - This is one of Harper’s most musically diverse albums to date, with styles ranging from reggae to more hard rock. Harper also adds funk to the mix on this album, further expanding his sound. This album is somewhat of a mixture of all of the styles that Harper has experienced with in prior albums. Songs like “Temporary Remedy” and “So High So Low” are similar to the style of the Relentless7. Key Tracks: “With My Own Two Hands” “Temporary Remedy” “Amen Omen”
Both Sides of the Gun (2006) - Continuing on the trend of being variant in his styles, this album actually separates the different styles into two discs-one that’s softer and one that’s harder. The first disc in the set focuses mostly on the folkier music that was so prevalent in his early music while the second disc has a harder sound to it, with diversity from track to track in style. The second disc is very similar to the Relentless7’s sound, with “Serve Your Soul” even being covered by them. Almost the entire disc has a sound that should be expected when he plays with them at Bonnaroo. Key Tracks: “Serve Your Soul” “Better Way” “Black Rain”
Lifeline (2007) - This is Harper’s most recent album with the Innocent Criminals, and focuses on a softer style, which it appears he will continue to focus on with this band. The album explores Harper’s love of gospel music and lets him focus on it in a different way than in There Will Be a Light. This album suggests that Harper will be playing mostly songs in this style from now on with this band, as well as older Harper songs, and will be using the Relentless7 as an output for his heavier music. Key Tracks: “Lifeline” “In the Colors” “Fight Outta You”
White Lies for Dark Times (2009) - This is Harper’s debut album with his new band, the Relentless7. While the album has not come out yet, the first single shows a new style for Harper, focusing on a much more rock oriented approach. Instead of experimenting with a wide variety of ecelctic styles as he has done with the Innocent Criminals, this album takes a much more straight-forward approach. There are also covers of “Good Times Bad Times,” “Purple Rain” and “Serve Your Soul” on the Relentless7 website. After listening to live recordings of their shows, I can say that this album will be fantastic, and showcases Harper in a newly energized light. Here are links to a sendspace for his December 4th show at Spaceland in Los Angeles: Part 1 and Part 2. Key Tracks: “Shimmer and Shine” “Good Times Bad Times” “Keep it Together (So I Can Fall Apart)
G. Love and Special Sauce (not so much for The Relentless7)
Jack Johnson (again not as much for this band)
As long as the songs are strong, I think you can express yourself in any style and have it be soulful and have it be your own voice. -Ben Harper
The show for Ben Harper and the Relentless7 can best be described as very energetic and much more straight-forward compared to past shows with the Innocent Criminals. Where the Innocent Criminal’s shows bounce around from style to style, Harper’s shows with the Relentless7 are more unabashedly rock-and-roll, focusing on his new band’s less complex, but much more powerful sound. It seems from listening to recordings that Harper is having a lot of fun playing with these guys, which should make for an amazing performance.
What to Expect at Bonnaroo!
I just want to keep doing what I feel. -Ben Harper
For their Bonnaroo show, expect the Relentless7 to perform mostly songs off of their new album, with covers sprinkled throughout. Definitely expect for them to play “Good Times Bad Times,” continuing on with Harper’s love of Zeppelin tunes that he showed us in 2007. I wouldn’t expect for them to play songs from his older albums, with the only exception being a possibility of “Serve Your Soul.” This could change if they are given a longer time slot, such as the rumor of him performing a later night slot.
Regardless of what songs they do play, expect to see Harper in a completely different light, playing with an energy unlike his past shows in recent years. Be prepared for a loud, boisterous show that will be tons of fun!
I really feel there's no limitation on what this band can do in the studio or on the stage. That's an empowering feeling - that we can bring a song to life. -Ben Harper
Ben Harper appeared in the documentary Pleasure and Pain by Danny Clinch, which highlighted a tour with the Innocent Criminals, and showed behind the scenes footage from his home, focusing on his musical philosophy.
Harper is married to actress Laura Dern, of Jurassic Park fame. They have two children, son Ellery and daughter Jaya.
In 1999, Harper gave his producer at the time a 12 track demo of music from Jack Johnson, who then recorded Johnson’s first album.
Harper was named artist of the year in 2003 by Rolling Stone in France.
His father is a mixture of African-American and Cherokee decent, while his mother is Jewish.
He performed the Star-Spangled Banner on slide guitar before game 3 of the 2007 NBA Finals in Cleveland.
He has an album out on iTunes with original songs and commentary on his song writing process.
i know , i can't wait! unfortuantly nobody ever comes to florida so i'm just going to have to wait until roo... i don't know if you've downloaded any of their shows yet, but the one from spaceland is fantastic quality, you can really hear every aspect of the band-really gets me excited for june!
Post by fightforyourmind88 on Apr 25, 2009 9:56:08 GMT -5
Great job! I love Ben Harper (obviously because of my username), but seeing him at lolla 2007 and missing Daft Punk is one of my biggest musical regrets. I've seen him, and I'll be at another show. But all of you will have fun!
A Thieve's Parade 2/24 Conspirator 2/26 Kevin Smith 3/11 Keller 3/17 Papadosio 3/18 JJ Grey 3/25 Bela Fleck/Edgar Meyer 3/26 Toubab Krewe 3/27 O'Death 4/11 Budos Band 4/22 EOTO 4/28 Summer Camp 5/6-29 All Good