This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #492: Burn One Down: Ben Harper.
One of the hobby horses I ride when it comes to music is the seemingly constant struggle to hear unique and original voices. The Music Industry often promotes, what it calls, “popular” music; which is music that is often defined as being successful based up record sales and total revenue. The way a “successful” mainstream artist/song is created is often through heavy promotion by a record label and/or concert promoter. Because there are so many things competing for our attention throughout a day, we often accept that information which comes to us the most easily, frequently and the loudest. Thus, it is easier for us, as consumers, to hear a new song by someone like Ariana Grande or Cardi B than it often is for us to hear someone, just as talented but not as heavily backed by corporate sponsors, like today’s artist, Ben Harper.
I truly hope that Ben Harper is an artist who is already familiar to you. This is because he is insanely talented. Ben Harper is a three-time Grammy Award winner. He has had eight albums achieve Gold or Platinum status and has had almost a dozen Top Ten hits. He has collaborated with many influential artists and bands over the years; everyone from The Blind Boys of Alabama, to Natalie Maines (of The Dixie Chicks), to Jack Johnson, Pearl Jam and, finally, Bluesman Charlie Musselwhite (who is said to have been the inspiration for the Dan Ackroyd character in the Blues Brothers movie). As a solo artist, Ben leans toward a mixture of Blues and Reggae. One of the things that makes Ben Harper most special, aside from his talent, is his inclination toward philanthropy and politics. Harper supports many initiatives such as environmental causes and those that help children and those in poverty. He is a selfless promotor of the Arts in communities. But, most of all, he fights against systemic racism in all of its forms. He has been very active in movements aimed at registering black voters, for instance.
The song you will hear today, it all about the de-criminalization of marijuana which, as a crime, affects the Black Community in a far more disproportionate way that is does the White Community. His backing band is called “The Innocent Criminals” for a reason. “Burn One Down” is a joyous, uplifting, positive song. Please give it a listen. It will fill your heart up and make you smile, for sure. Ben Harper is a wonderful singer, songwriter, musician and human. He is someone we all could stand to hear from more often. As tough as it is for us to cut through the myriad voices that come at us each day, our world is markedly better when we search out those whose voice actually makes things better for us and for others. One such beautiful voice is Ben Harper’s.
The music video for Burn One Down by Ben Harper can be found here.
***As a bonus, here is the music video for the song he collaborated on with Charlie Musselwhite called No Mercy in This Land. That song was the Blues Song of the Year in 2018. The link is here.
***As if that isn’t enough, it turns out that Harper is a fan of INXS. During an Australian tour, he covered Never Tear Us Apart and did a wonderful job as you shall soon see. The link to that performance is here.
Ben Harper has a website worth checking out. The link to it is here.
Thanks, again, to KEXP for pointing me in the direction of Ben Harper. KEXP’s website can be found here.