Friday, April 3, 2009

Bonnaroo 2009 Artist

"You have to do what you believe in" - Ben Harper

Ben Harper just may be the hardest working musician today. If not the hardest, certainly one of the most creative and respected in the business. From his days as a solo artist, his collaboration with the Blind Boys of Alabama, and with his longtime backing band, the Innocent Criminals (who aren't breaking up), the music never stops for Ben Harper.

The California native began playing folk and blues guitar as a child in his grandparents' music store, and would later learn what has become his signature sound on the Weissenborn slide guitar. By the age of twenty, Ben had both toured and recorded with the legendary blues artist, Taj Mahal.

He secured a deal with Virgin Records, thanks to his first LP, Pleasure and Pain. Only 1500 copies pressed, it's now considered a collector's item, and featured originals, covers and traditional songs.

His '94 debut album, Welcome to the Cruel World, featured gems like "Don't Take That Attitude to Your Grave", "Waiting on an Angel", "Forever", "Walk Away", "Welcome to the Cruel World" and the Dr. Martin Luther King inspired, "Like a King."

Over the course of the next year, Harper and the Innocent Criminals, would record the college radio favorite, Fight For Your Mind. These songs drew very positive reviews, partly due to his mix of folk, gospel, heavy metal riffs and reggae. It was at this time that Harper's fanbase began to expand, thanks to touring slots with bands such as the Dave Matthews Band. Most of these songs are considered staples in his live show today, for example, "Ground on Down", "Excuse Me Mr." and "Burn One Down."

It was all up hill for Ben after that, as well as some of his musician friends, most notably the former pro surfer-turned musician, Jack Johnson.

The next six studio albums Ben released, would all become chart toppers, while his collaboration with the Blind Boys, There Will Be a Light, was named the top gospel album of 2004.

Despite all of his successes, especially worldwide, Ben has remained true to his self, never letting the fame get to his head, most likely because of the manner he was brought up in. This is exactly the reason why he is so respected. Through his lyrics and voice, you will find a deep, honest and genuine sincerity that a lot of artists lack today.

The Relentless 7
In the late '90s, Ben met Wan Santo Condo guitarist and "van-driver-of-musicians", Jason Mozersky, who took a risk by asking Ben if he could play him his demo. Ben obliged and in his own words, "was blown away." He helped the band land a record deal, although they only lasted for the one album. The two remained friends, and the rest as they say, was history.

Fast forward to 2005, and the recording sessions for the double album, Both Sides of the Gun. Ben had invited Jason to lay down some guitar work for the album, and who did Jason bring along to these sessions? His old bandmates, who would all join in on what would become the song "Serve Your Soul", thus building the framework for what would become Ben Harper & the Relentless 7.

With only a handful of shows under their belt, and not even an album released yet (White Lies for Dark Times to be released on May 5), Ben Harper & the Relentless 7 are already one of the year's most buzzing acts.

Nearly every performance, every year at Bonnaroo is always something special and considered a show not to be missed. At Bonnaroo, we've seen Ben solo, with the Innocent Criminals, and even in 2007's SuperJam featuring Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones and The Roots ?uestlove. This summer we will be exposed to another side of Ben Harper which will surely go down in the books. Their show is even rumored to be a latenight show on the Which Stage.

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