The funky, rhythm-centric acoustic slide guitar playing of Ben Harper has given him the opportunity to work with a plethora of different artists whether that be covering their songs, hopping on stage to jam out together, or crafting originals.
With musical influence that are so eclectic comes the flexibility to work with a diverse array of artists from different genres including Jack Johnson, INXS, Pearl Jam and the Blind Boys Of Alabama.
10. Ben Harper & John Lee Hooker-“Burnin’ Hell”-
When legendary jukejoint blues guitarist, John Lee Hooker, put out his own collaboration album in 1998 called The Best of Friends he recruited music notables like Carlos Santana and Bonnie Raitt to hop on his old school blues train.
Ben Harper got to lend his talented guitar skills to smouldering bar burners like “Burning Hell.”
9.Ben Harper & Jack Johnson-“Flake”
In a way, Ben Harper “discovered” surfer singer-songwriter Jack Johnson when he played in 1999 at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Since then,the two have played on each other’s songs, both onstage and off.
While watching this performance of the song “Flake” from Johnson’s debut album Brushfire Fairytales, we were struck by how modest both Johnson and Harper seem.
8. Ben Harper & Vanessa De Mata-“Boa Sorte”
We had never heard of Vanessa De Mata before researching Ben Harper’s collaborations, but the combination of this gorgeous singer-songwriter from Brazil singing sultry Portuguese and Harper’s acoustic guitar is an intoxicating sonic cocktail.
7. Ben Harper & John Farriss of INXS -“Never Tear Us Apart”
Even though Ben Harper is from California, he is noted for gaining most of his success in Australia–the home country of famous rock group INXS.
The band asked him to do a cover of “Never Tears Us Apart” accompanied by drummer John Farriss and what ensued was a soulful, spine-tingling version of the song that would Michael Hutchence proud.
6. Ben Harper & The Skatalites-“Be My Guest”
A ska band from Jamaica that started in 1964, the Skatalites hearken back to the summery heyday of reggae/ska and were probably a huge influence on some of Ben Harper’s more reggae-tinged songs which makes his vocals accompanied by their instruments on Fats Domino’s song “Be My Guest” even more poignant.
5. Ben Harper, Led Zeppelin’s [Paul Jones & Questlove-“Superjam at Bonnaroo”
As huge fans of the guest-artist-encore-superjam at concerts, our minds were blown when we saw this massive jam with Ben Harper, Led Zeppelin’s Paul Jones, and Questlove at Bonnaroo, a music festival in Tennessee. We love watching the minds (and guitar-strumming hands) or musical geniuses at work.
4. Ben Harper & Beth Orton-“Stolen Car”
When British folk-pop singer, Beth Orton, released her album Central Reservation in 1999, we had no idea that one of our favorite folk guitarists lent his guitar skills (electric style) to her huge single at the time, “Stolen Car.”
3. Ben Harper & Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam-“Indifference”
Both very political with their sentiments, Ben Harper and Eddie Vedder quietly rock out on the Pearl Jam song “Indifference” after a Madison Square Garden rally of some sort. Ignore Vedder’s political diatribe in the video or watch it for Harper’s hilarious head shake.
2. Ben Harper & Blind Boys of Alabama -“I Shall Not Walk Alone”
In 2004, Ben Harper released an album called There Will Be Light with the Blind Boys of Alabama–a blind gospel group that started in 1939. The result was effortlessly moving gospel songs, like this popular one, “I Shall Not Walk Alone.”
1. Ben Harper, Dhani Harrison, & Joseph Arthur a.k.a Fistful of Mercy -“Fistful of Mercy”
The band Ben Harper is now in, Fistful of Mercy, is three super-talented singer-songwriters playing folk guitar. Fistful of Mercy boasts the skills of Dhani Harrison (George Harrison’s son) and Joseph Arthur.
After playing more rocking, electric stuff, Fistful of Mercy has Harper returning to what he is best at–sonically subdued folk guitar with rebellion-slanted lyrics.