Age: 38 at time of award
Published January 28, 2007
Corey Harris is a guitarist, songwriter, and performer who is leading a contemporary revival of country blues with a fresh, modern hand. He is a powerful and compelling singer and an accomplished guitarist whose musical artistry is complemented by serious explorations of the historical and cultural conditions that gave rise to the blues. He demonstrates his respect for the past and his mastery of the Mississippi Delta blues tradition by interpreting the songs of early blues luminaries in new ways, while also creating an original vision of the blues by infusing his music with a broad range of sounds and styles. Beginning with his 1995 recording Between Midnight and Day, Harris has explored acoustic, rural blues styles with increasing success. Subsequent recordings, such as Greens from the Garden (1999), Mississippi to Mali (2003), and Daily Bread (2005), reflect Harris’ reinterpretations of the African influences on American blues through ethnographic research and musical collaborations in Mali, Guinea, and elsewhere. He has demonstrated the boundless expressive power of blues music by weaving traditional styles together with elements from jazz, reggae, gospel, and African and Caribbean folk music. Maturing from interpreter to creator, his imaginative compositions spark renewed interest in the musical potential of the blues. Sometimes forgoing the traditional 12-bar structure and mimetic repetition common to most blues music, Harris forges an adventurous path marked by deliberate eclecticism. With one foot in tradition and the other in contemporary experimentation, he blends musical styles often considered separate and distinct to create something entirely new for the 21st century.
Corey Harris received a B.A. (1991) from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. His additional recordings include Fish Ain’t Bitin’ (1997), Vu-Du Menz (with Henry Butler, 2000), Downhome Sophisticate (2002), and Zion Crossroads (2007). He has performed at venues and in festivals throughout the U.S. and abroad.
High-resolution photos for download. Photos are owned by the MacArthur Foundation and licensed under a Creative Commons license: CC-BY. Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Right-click on a link below to save the file to your computer.
About the Fellows Program
The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. Learn More
Mimi Lien, Set Designer
Class of 2015