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October 28: Ben Harper

October 27, 2016

Musician Ben Harper, the son of an African-American father and Jewish mother, who chiefly raised him, was born in Pomona, California on this date in 1969. His parents were the owners of a music store, the Folk Music Center, in Claremont. Harper is a great songwriter, blues player, and vocalist who also delivers folk music, soul, reggae, rock and roll, and protest songs. As a master of musical diversity, he has won three Grammy Awards and released thirteen albums. He is also active in the “No Nukes” movement, in human rights and anti-racism campaigns, in the environmental movement, and in promoting music programs for poor communities — and is co-owner of a skateboard brand, Roller Horror. His singing style is emotive, soulful and on key; his guitar-playing is sharp and broad-ranging. Among the artists he has collaborated with are Charlie Musselwhite, Rickie Lee Jones, The Blind Boys of Alabama, John Lee Hooker — and his mother, Ellen Harper, a multi-instrumentalist, like her son. To see him singing “With My Own Two Hands,” a reggae-influenced piece, look below. To see him playing a great blues about police, look below that.

“Music is freedom and being free is the closest I’ve ever felt to being spiritual.” --Ben Harper