Birthplace: Pomona, California
Though he has never had a hit album, Ben Harper's unique combination of elements of blues revivalism, Jimi Hendrix-influenced rock, and '90s jam bands like Blues Traveler, Hootie & the Blowfish, and Phish, has won him the attention of critics and college kids. As an adolescent, Harper began playing acoustic slide guitar, which became his signature instrument. After signing with Virgin Records in 1992, he released his debut album, Welcome to the Cruel World in 1994, and followed it in 1995 with the politically loaded Fight for Your Mind. His third album, 1998's The Will to Live, introduced the Innocent Criminals, Harper's supporting band made up of bassist Juan Nelson, drummer Dean Butterworth, and percussionist David Leach, who helped solidify Harper's musical diversity. Touring constantly helped build a dedicated fan base for Harper who also developed a strong rapport with other artists, playing on records by Beth Orton, John Lee Hooker, and Government Mule. He played the Tibetan Freedom Concerts in 1997 and 1999 and has opened for R.E.M., Radiohead, Metallica, and Pearl Jam. In spring 2001, Harper issued Live from Mars, a double disc of live and acoustic material from his previous year's tour. A late 2003 DVD release Live at the Hollywood Bowl, was recorded live in August of that year. He joined the Blind Boys of Alabama for the 2004 album There Will Be a Light, which garnered three Grammy nominations. His 2006 album Both Sides of the Gun debuted at number 7 on the Billboard charts.