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Ben Harper Biography

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Birth Name: Benjamin Chase Harper
Born: 1969/10/28
Birth Place: Claremont, California, USA
Years Active: 1992 — present
Genres: Alternative Rock, Folk Rock, Blues-rock, Gospel, Reggae

Benjamin Chase “Ben” Harper (born October 28, 1969) is an American singer-songwriter and musician. Harper plays an eclectic mix of blues, folk, 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 Australia. 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.

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.

Early in Harper's career, his music received more attention in Europe and was widely played 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.

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 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.

He released two albums featuring a collaboration with the Blind Boys of Alabama. The first, 2004’s “There Will Be a Light” would go on to pick up a Grammy award for Best Gospel album while Harper would also win a Grammy for the track, “11th Commandment.” That album was followed by the 2005 live release “Live at the Apollo.”

After several albums without the Innocent Criminals, Harper reconvened that band for the 2006 album “Both Sides of the Gun” which debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. It was his first studio album to feature the backing band since 2001’s “Burn to Shine.” Though uncredited, he appears briefly in the 2006 David Lynch film “Inland Empire,” alongside his wife Laura Dern.

Harper and the Innocent Criminals then released the 2007 album, “Lifeline,” which was recorded in Paris. It reached #9 on the Billboard 200. Harper also covered John Lennon's “Beautiful Boy” on the benefit album “Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur.”

Harper's 2008 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.”

While recording “Both Sides of the Gun” in 2005, Harper met the members who would eventually form his new band, 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 Relentless 7 was released in May 2009. It peaked at #9 on the Billboard 200, becoming his third Top 10 album on the chart.

In 2010, Harper 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,” in October 2010. The album reached #2 on the Billboard Folk Albums chart, #8 on the Independent Albums chart and #50 on the Billboard 200.

Harper released a solo album, “Give Till It’s Gone” in 2011. The album, which reached #15 on the Billboard 200, featured the ex-Beatle Ringo Starr, who co-wrote and played the drums on the tracks “Spilling Faith” and “Get There from Here.” Another song from the album, “Pray That Our Love Sees the Dawn,” featured American singer-songwriter Jackson Browne.