Ben Harper, Laura Dern’s Ex-Husband: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

laura dern ex husband ben harper

Getty Laura Dern and musician Ben Harper arrives at the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

Actress Laura Dern is nominated for the 2020 Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. While she is not married now, Dern was married to musician Ben Harper from 2005 to 2013 and the couple has two children together.

Harper was born in Pomona, California to Leonard and Ellen Chase-Verdries. His parents got divorced when he was five years old, and he grew up with his mother’s family.

His grandmother on his mother’s side owned a music store named The Folk Music Center and Museum, where Harper learned to play guitar and found love for folk music and blues.

“Not only was it my home, but it was home to every artist who cared to walk through the doors,” he told Wood & Steel Magazine in 2019. “David Lindley, Chris Darrow, Jackson Browne, Taj Mahal, Leonard Cohen, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee… the list is just so long.”

According to Harper, he attended Bob Marley’s performance in Burbank, California, which was a huge influence in choosing music as a career.

Here’s what you should know about Harper:

1. He Released His First Album in 1994

Ben Harper started playing the guitar when he was six years old, and he played his first gig at just 12 years old. He went on tour with Taj Mahal before even releasing his first album.

“Touring with Taj was the single greatest moment in my creative life, on par with getting my own first record deal,” he said. “Taj is the keeper of the flame and has a one-of-a-kind depth and a wealth of firsthand knowledge of the music that is most important to me.”

After his first LP, “Pleasure and Pain” was released, he secured a lifetime record deal with Virgin Records in 1992.

Harper released his debut album, “Welcome To The Cruel World” in 1994. The album was certified gold in Australia and Canada, and it was certified platinum in France.

His second album, “Fight For Your Mind,” was released one year later. It was certified gold in the US and received positive reviews. In 2006, Harper released “Both Sides of The Gun,” which debuted at number 7 on the Billboard 200.

Harper was featured on the Fall 2019 issue of Wood & Steel magazine.

2. He Has Won Three Grammy Awards

In 2004, Ben Harper was nominated for his first Grammy Award. He was nominated for three awards that year: Best Pop Instrumental Performance, Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album and Best Gospel Performance.

He won Best Pop Instrumental Performance for “11th Commandment” and Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album for “There Will Be a Light.”

Harper received his most recent Grammy Award in 2013 for Get Up! The record received the award for Best Blues Album. His record No Mercy in This Land was nominated for Best Traditional Blues Album in 2018, though he did not win that award.

3. Harper Has Five Children

Harper has been married three times and has five children. In 1996, Harper married his first wife, Joanna. Together, they had two children. The first, Charles, was born in 1997 and the second, Harris, was born in 2000. Joanna and Harper divorced in 2001.

By 2005, Harper and Laura Dern got married. The couple have two children: son Ellery Walker, who was born in August 2001, and daughter Jaya, who was born in November 2004.

Harper is currently married to social advocate Jaclyn Matfus. They got married on January 1, 2015 and welcomed their son Besso in June 2017.

4. He is a Songwriter and Producer

Harper is not only a performer, but he also writes and produces songs for other artists. Most recently, he wrote and produced eleven tracks on Mavis Staples’ album We Get By. 

In 2012, Harper co-produced Natalie Maines’ first solo rock album Mother. Maines is a member of the Dixie Chicks.

He also performed as a guest on the 17th season of American Idol during the second night of the “Top 20 Duets” episode; he sang alongside contestant Alejandro Aranda and performed “There Will Be a Light.”

5. He Supports Various Charities

According to his website, Harper supports Newlight, the Tony Hawk Foundation, LIFT, Living Lands and Waters, Feeding America, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Pick Up America, Surfrider Foundation and the Pat Tillman Foundation.

Harper also performs at charity events. In December 2019, he performed as part of the annual “America Salutes You” benefit event. The event benefits brain and mental wellness charities for veterans and first responders. The event aired on the CW.

In 2018, Harper performed at the second annual Thundergong, which is a charity event. By the end of the night, the event raised $279,976 toward Step of Faith’s efforts of helping amputees afford prosthetics.

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