The last thing Harper Simon wants you to ask him about is his dad, Paul, but I did anyway. And he was surprisingly gracious about it. The music legend co-wrote a couple of songs on Harper´s 2009 eponymous debut, which was produced by the exalted Bob Johnston, whose name is practically synonymous with Nashville. (He produced Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Johnny Cash, among others.) Harper is far more than just some musical offspring dipping his toes in the gene pool. You´ll find shades of good, old-fashioned folk, acoustic country licks, and, at times, a hazy psychedelic vibe. Harper, who has a knack for playing humanitarian relief shows, is playing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music´s Gilman Opera House with his pops tonight, as well as with a score of other legends, including Yoko Ono (whom he admires unreservedly), Eric Clapton, Bette Midler, and his friend and fellow pop-music scion Sean Lennon. Harper was kind enough to chat with us for a few minutes last week to talk about his recent trip to Mali, his dad, and tonight´s show.
On playing in Mali´s Festival Au Desert last month.
The Festival Au Desert is a really great international festival located in the desert outside of Timbuktu. It was too expensive to bring my band there, but the percussionist Orpheo McCord, who plays with the bands Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Fools Gold, came down and we played together as a duo. The highlight was playing with the great Tuareg band Tinariwen. They´re something else. It was also great to see Vieux Farke Toure play. He´s the son of the late legendary Ali Farke Toure, and a truly bad-ass guitar player in his own right. We may do some shows together in the future. I´m hoping we do.
On playing humanitarian fundraiser concerts over the years, and the aftermath of Haiti.
I do happen to be one of the greatest living humanitarians and it´s seldom recognized in the press, so thank you. No, I haven´t actually been asked to play any [Haiti] benefits or anything but thanks for making me feel self-conscious about it! I did donate money to the Red Cross though.
On playing with his dad.
I don´t actually get to play with my dad all that often, but I will admit that I really do love it when we do. Not because he´s my dad really, just because he´s so goddamn good.
On tonight´s show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music´s Gilman Opera House, in which he is performing with his dad, Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Sean Lennon, and Bette Midler.
I actually get quite nervous performing in front of so many people, but I do think it´s going to be a special show. My dad and I are going to do a duet. I don´t know if we´ve ever done that before in public. There aren´t that many circumstances in which we would do it, but we wanted to do it for Yoko. I love Yoko. I think she´s a great artist. Yoko and my mom have been friends for a long time now, and Sean and I are old friends.