Always a Song is a collection of stories from singer and songwriter Ellen Harper—folk matriarch and mother to the Grammy-winning musician Ben Harper.
Harper shares vivid memories of growing up in Los Angeles through the 1960s among famous and small-town musicians, raising Ben, and the historic Folk Music Center.
This beautifully written memoir includes stories of Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, The New Lost City Ramblers, Doc Watson, and many more.
• Harper takes readers on an intimate journey through the folk music revival. • The book spans a transformational time in music, history, and American culture. • Covers historical events from the love-ins, women's rights protests, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the popularization of the sitar and the ukulele. • Includes full-color photo insert.
"Growing up, an endless stream of musicians and artists came from across the country to my family's music store. Bess Lomax Hawes, Joan Baez, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGee—all the singers, organizers, guitar and banjo pickers and players, songwriters, painters, dancers, their husbands, wives, and children—we were all in it together. And we believed singing could change the world."—Ellen Harper
Music lovers and history buffs will enjoy this rare invitation into a world of stories and song that inspired folk music today.
• A must-read for lovers of music, history, and those nostalgic for the acoustic echo of the original folk music that influenced a generation • Harper's parents opened the legendary Folk Music Center in Claremont, California, as well as the revered folk music venue The Golden Ring. • A perfect gift for people who are obsessed with folk music, all things 1960s, learning about musical movements, or California history • Great for those who loved Small Town Talk: Bob Dylan, The Band, Van Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Friends in the Wild Years of Woodstock by Barney Hoskyns; and Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller.
About the Author
Ellen Harper is a singer, songwriter, musician, and owner of the Folk Music Center. She released her first solo album in 2018, Light Has a Life of Its Own, at the age of 71. Ellen and Ben Harper collaborated on the album Childhood Home and went on tour together in 2014. Ellen lives in Claremont, California.
"Ellen Harper may be known to music fans as the mother of the musician Ben Harper, but there is so much more to her story.... A very personal take on the folk music revival with an especially lovely foreword by the author's son." -Booklist
"Truth-teller Ellen Harper writes through five generations of her multi-cultural family's odyssey of fighting to keep music real and powerful in American life. At times heartbreaking and humorous, but always inspiring and not to be missed by songwriters and singers, music fans, or anyone who likes a meaningful story." -PETER CASE, Singer, Songwriter, Producer
"Ellen Harper strikes a major chord while sharing her real life experience in the folk music world from its very early days. She continues to make life happen in a meaningful musical manner. Always a Song is a great read." -CLAUDIA LENNEAR, Twenty Feet from Stardom and former Ikette with the Ike and Tina Revue
"I read this book in a weekend, riveted by the intimacy and the honesty of Ellen's narrative. Always a Song is an eloquent, searching account of a life lived for truth, love, and music." -JACKSON BROWNE
"Ellen Harper's unique vantage as red-diaper baby, folk connector, counterculture witness, and maven of family and community is matched by her memory, wit, and compassion." -JONATHAN LETHEM, New York Times bestselling author of Chronic City and Motherless Brooklyn
"Ellen Harper's extraordinary story is revelatory, inspiring, and compulsively readable. Harper's account of fighting the establishment in the name of art and equality is required reading-a songbook of protest, of freedom, of revolution and resurgence." -BRET ANTHONY JOHNSTON, internationally bestselling author of Remember Me Like This
"A bridge back to the world I remember as a child of folkies, beatniks, free lovers, poets, and intellectuals-all fighting for a new way of life-Harper's memoir is of a wonderful complicated family, the story of a woman, the story of America." -BOB FORREST, lead vocalist for Thelonious Monster and The Bicycle Thief
"Ellen Harper is folk music royalty, growing up with Pete Seeger and Joan Baez around the dinner table. Her story is both heartrending and a pleasure to read." -ROGER MCGUINN, Leader of the Byrds
"This book is a love song and at times a blues song; but always a folk song of community, compassion and justice. Full of love of family and love of music, a most fertile ground for sowing seeds of human harmony. Each chapter unfolds like another Child Ballad to the heartbeat of this remarkable woman, Ellen Harper. Indeed, there is always hope as long as we keep on singing." -JOHN YORK, former bassist for The Byrds
"The author crafts a compelling story of an ordinary life taking surprising turns." -Kirkus Reviews