Sunday, September 23, 2012

Introducing Ben Harper

Now did you want to see me broken,
bowed head and lowered eyes,
shoulders fallen down like teardrops,
weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my confidence upset you?
Don’t you take it awful hard cause I walk,
like I’ve got a diamond mine breakin’ up in my front yard.
So you may shoot me with your words,
you may cut me with your eyes,
and I’ll rise – I’ll rise – I’ll rise – rise – rise.
Out of the shacks of history’s shame,
up from a past rooted in pain,
and I’ll rise – I’ll rise – I’ll rise – rise – rise

I remember the day I first heard Ben Harper. It was sometime in the early nineties. I was young and falling in and out of love. I was on a porch in San Francisco, and the day before I had told my girlfriend at the time that I just wanted to be friends. She was due to come and talk. I wasn’t sure about what or why, but I had agreed. The sun was getting ready to set, and the fog waited in the Richmond to be unleashed.

I share this story with you, because as writers I think it is important to remember that all of our writing no matter how structured it may appear is anchored in real life experiences, and connecting to those memories is one of the most important aspects of writing. Back to the story…

She arrived. Broken. Smiling. I offered her something to drink. We sat on the porch. She had been crying. I have some songs to play for you she said. I have a new favorite artist she said. You will love him she said. I hated that she knew me so well. It made it harder to make the break. Before I knew it, I was hearing the basic three-chord progression of the song Walk Away by Ben Harper.

The words floated from the speakers and disappeared over the edge of the porch:
Oh no- here comes that sun again.
And (that) means another day without you my friend.
And it hurts me to look into the mirror at myself.
And it hurts even more to have to be with somebody else.
And it’s so hard to do and so easy to say.
But sometimes – sometimes,
you just have to walk away – walk away.
The connection I made to that song on that late afternoon was so strong that even as I type these words years later, I can feel the same tears welling up in my eyes. We sat listening to the entire album- Welcome To The Cruel World. The girl (Cortney) and I remained friends. I was just invited to her wedding this August. But it was the music that helped solidify that day in my memory.

My admiration and love of Ben Harper was born that day years ago, but his music has been a constant source of inspiration and comfort to me throughout the years.My wife and I  chose his song Forever as our wedding song, and whenever I am in need of honest, truthful, soulful, spiritual music it is to Harper I turn. He is a true artist in the sense that he is more than a musician. He is an activist, a father, and a beautiful human being. These characteristics shine through the words of his song and can be seen in his amazing live performances. I have been lucky enough to see Harper live on several occasions and each show is a carnival of soul, blues, rock and roll, and folk. He blends his political anthems with a tender grace reserved for vespers and lullabies.

I am sharing Ben Harper with you because I want to show that musicians and artists need not be labeled. Harper is not a political artist; he is simply a human being aware of the state of the world; he is a man in touch with his spiritual need to bring peace to those he touches with his art. Whether through love or protest songs, he is a man of action and style.

He may not be on top forty lists, but Harper is a spokesman for members of a generation looking for something more than blind consumerism and greed. He stands for peace, love, and the assembling of the human family. I encourage you to explore his website and more importantly listen to his music. Watch him on Youtube or at his site see how his work connects with you.

Where to start? His website allows you to stream many of his songs. His album Fight For Your Mind is a also great place to start. As always there is his wikipedia page. Here are some song titles to explore:

Better Way
With My Own Two Hands
Excuse Me Mr.

Let me know what you think! Write a post about how his music affects you.
Take your face out of your hands
And clear your eyes
You have a right to your dreams
And don’t be denied
I believe in a better way...

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