C4S1CD16 So Ben Harper, I can safely say he is one of my musical hero’s and somebody I’d love to have a beer with and talk about his music and his life.
If you don’t know anything about Harper then here is a brief overview, he has released music in his own name, with a couple of backing bands, The Innocent Criminals, and Relentless 7, as part of a ‘group’ called Fistful of Mercy with Joseph Arthur & Dhani Harrison (George’s Son) he was responsible for bringing The Blind Boys of Alabama back into mainstream music after releasing 2 albums of gospel music, and has been a mentor for Jack Jackson and loads of other musicians, (he turns up on all sorts of albums from Beth Orton to Soul Tributes) and for me has managed to allow his creativity and love of music to flow and not be compromised by the music industry which is very hard to do in this day and age!
This album contains an eclectic mix of styles that dips into reggae, soul and folk, and lyrics that cover the normal, love and falling in love, (Waiting On An Angel, and Walk Away) black oppression and politics, (Like a King, How Many Miles Must We March, and I’ll Rise) sexuality (Mama’s Got A Girlfriend Now) and the songs are so beautifully crafted that whether you want to get into the lyrics or not you can still listen and enjoy this music. On Paul Weller’s Box Set, Fly On The Wall which was 3 CD’s of B-sides and rarities the Modfather covers Waiting On An Angel and in the liner notes talks about what a good songwriter he thinks Harper is.
I need to talk about a couple of track on the album as both have touched me profoundly firstly Like A King, a political statement that revolves around two men with the surname King that are both very significant for very different reasons. If you haven’t guessed by the two people are Martin Luther and Rodney King. Now I am not going to make comment on either the killing of Martin Luther King or the savage beating of Rodney King, Like A King does that already, all I’ll say is that the world would be a better place if neither event had ever happened, but Harper puts so much emotion into this song you kind of understand how black Americans must have viewed these events. Ok onto I’ll Rise and if pushed one of my favourite songs ever. If someone said to me I could only play 5 songs for the rest of my life, this would be one of them. I’ll Rise is an adaptation of a Maya Angelou poem (Still I’ll Rise) still now the song inspires me every time I hear it. The song deals with the history of slavery and African Americans struggle to be heard, but for anybody who has been knocked down or knocked back, then this is an anthem for you. (The poem has a slightly different point to make coming at life from a female point of view but is still a very strong piece of work) Live Harper usually sings the song without accompaniment, usually standing fist raised in the salute used by The Black Panthers and famously carried out by athlete’s Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the podium of the 1968 Mexico Olympics. No matter what colour your skin is I defy anybody not to be moved when watching Ben Harper sing this song.
I love Ben Harper always have always will, he is always prepared to stretch himself and look to collaborate with lesser known artists but his music never suffers such is the talent of the man.
This Video is 15 minute version of Like A King that then merges into I'll Rise I think it's amazing but if you just want to listen to I'll Rise I have posted an early version below.