As most all of us across the country sit in our homes and look out at piles of that cold, white snow, there is a man who we have all come to love who is very much enjoying the sunny state of Florida. Here, this author, musician, performer and gallery owner is creating books, CD’s, dinner musicals – all different forms of entertainment! This is a man who is filled with pure artistry and, most of all, a joy for life. Which is a quality that has become very sparse in the last decade.
Ben Harrison has had a great 2011! His creativity and sense of humor is far beyond many, and every month readers have become closer and closer to this individual who has offered unforgettable words to the masses.
As we look back on the year, Ben Harrison’s literary marvels include an amazing nonfiction title, Undying Love (which was originally released by St. Martin’s Press/True Crime division; now available through Ketch & Yawl Publishing). Based on a hard-to-fathom true crime, Undying Love is a book that concentrates on a very unique and disturbing “relationship.”
When we had our ‘sit-down’ with Ben Harrison he explained how this particular idea came about:
I was reading A Key West Companion, a tourist guide book, and the chapter about the bizarre love von Cosel, the faux Count, had for the terminally ill Elena Hoyos grabbed me. This darkly humorous true story was so outrageous yet, weirdly touching, that I immediately began composing “The Ballad of María Elena Hoyos.” It all went downhill from there. At the time, I was playing at The Bull on Duval Street here in Key West, and much to my surprise it became the song I was requested to play the most.
Then, a so-called “friend” suggested and encouraged me to write the musical, Undying Love. Daily, I would walk around town with our newborn second child on my back and imagine myself as one of the characters, trying to put myself in their shoes and walk the same streets they walked. There were still a lot of people living here who remembered them, which helped a great deal. Invariably, they got a twinkle in their eyes recalling the 1930’s when there was no work due to the depression, plenty of food from the sea, cigars and rum from Cuba, and no shortage of housing. Had it not been for mosquitoes, it would have been perfect.
One of the things that struck me about the different reactions, was how women tended to be more romantic about this unearthly love while men, naturally, were more crass.
When thinking about Undying Love, and the ‘holiday season’ it reminds one of the Christmas scene that is in the book, as the Count celebrates with the body of his true love:
“Elena! It is Christmas!” Then taking my seat at the organ, I played Silent Night until the lights on the tree were burning down. Going to her bed and sitting myself beside her, I lifted her veil and kissed her on the lips:
“Elena, darling, we are all alone in this world – you and I and our God – but we are happy and contented. Let us stay together forever.”
Yes, kind of creepy – yet, at least the Count and Elena did not have to celebrate Christmas alone.
Ben Harrison also released his first novel in 2011 – Charlie Jones. This amazing generational story is set in South Texas where Ben Harrison grew up:
I have tried to be very true to the location and Texas in general, but it was great fun making up characters, deciding what they would be like, and how they would act. There’s a lot of freedom there. I think it’s a good story about growing up, coming of age, and the eternal question of what’s important. At first, my fictional copulation was rather staid until I had a conversation with author, Judy Blume, who had come by the gallery. With an infectious smile, she laughed about how much fun her sex scenes were to write. I spiced mine up and she was right!
And when it comes to the world of music, Ben Harrison let all of his fans ‘in on’ the beginning of his music career:
I had a four-piece band in junior high and we even played several times in the cafeteria at lunch. I wrote my first song back then, and though I can’t remember it now, I’m sure it had something to do with love and girls. It was our version of Ricky Nelson, who we covered along with Elvis and others.
It wasn’t until 1978 that I wrote my first real song, “Joe Joe,” a ballad about an island character. I was performing in Roatán two nights a week and it just sort of came to me, and started this whole songwriting pursuit.
As we have spoke about in our articles covering Ben Harrison and his work, we introduced to readers the famous and truly entertaining CD’s that he created. Air Sunshine, and Erin Elkins and Ben Harrison, are both CD’s that offer a touch of jazz, with beats that will keep minds engaged for hours.
Erin Elkins and Ben Harrison brought back a country/folk appeal that has been missing in this world, combined with an almost…haunting, sultry quality that takes you away from what you’re doing and brings you into a world of truly inspiring verse.
The CD, Air Sunshine, is Ben Harrison’s musical trek through history. The ‘Remember When’ songs speak of a simple, better time…before computers, the internet, and cell phones decided to destroy the ambiance around us all and add neuroses that will never go away.
On top of the books and music, Ben Harrison and his wife are also the owners of an art gallery in Key West, that offers a truly stunning website for the rest of us sitting in the snow to view. We spoke with Ben about this particular aspect of his life:
We opened Harrison Gallery in 1986, because that was the only way Helen would be able to actually ‘work’ doing what she loves. The first gallery she showed in accepted two pieces and made her sign a contract not to exhibit at other galleries. We needed more than that. Nothing much has changed, and not much is too daunting after building a boat in Costa Rica, which is how she learned her sculpting skills.
2011 gave fans, readers and listeners a wonderful collection of Ben Harrison’s talent – and each and every one of us look forward to the amazing moments that 2012 is sure to bring! And Ben Harrison has this message to send to one and all:
Enjoy the holidays and don’t feel bad if your New Year’s resolutions are the same year after year. That just means you’re no quitter. – Ben Harrison
My New Year’s Resolution? Give us MORE Ben Harrison!
Until Next Time, Everybody!
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