Joseph Arthur

Growing up in the '70s and '80s in Akron, Ohio, Joseph Arthur's musical life started off like many others, with mandatory piano lessons. But once he realized he could use the piano to conjure up his own musical worlds, he took to the instrument and began writing songs, eventually playing in bands while in high school.

Days after graduation, he moved to Atlanta with a band, playing bass and supporting himself with day jobs at a music store and tattoo shop.

At the time, Arthur aspired to be a world-class jazz or fusion bass player in the vein of the late Jaco Pastorius. But when a demo tape of Arthur’s songs made its way to Peter Gabriel, it was the lyrics that attracted Peter, as he realized the talented songwriter was a great fit for his label Real World Records.

Within a few months Arthur was signed and Big City Secrets was recorded at Real World Studios with Marcus Dravs (Bjork, Coldplay, Mumford and Sons) producing the album, which was released in 1997. Two years later, he recorded an EP called Vacancy, followed in 2000 by Come To Where I’m From, which features his signature song, ‘In the Sun’. The track was covered by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and Coldplay’s Chris Martin in 2006 on a charity single to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina, having previously been recorded a decade earlier by Gabriel for a Princess Diana tribute album.

After releasing four EPs collectively called Junkyard Hearts, his third album, Redemption’s Son, came out in May 2002.

Joseph Arthur returned to Real World Records to release his double album, The Ballad of Boogie Christ in 2013, and another new album, The Family, was released by the label in 2016.

Arthur’s cover of the Louis Armstrong classic ‘What A Wonderful World’ was released in early 2017 in support of American First Lady Michelle Obama’s A Place at the Table, a three-year national media campaign that aims to inspire the U.S. and its leaders to make ending hunger a national priority. “Beyond proud to be asked to record this song for the Food is Fuel campaign with Michelle Obama” says Joseph.

Nominated for a Best Recording Package Grammy for his 1999 EP Vacancy, Arthur is also an accomplished painter, having displayed his works in galleries around the world. His online only gallery serves as a repository for his creations. He is also a prolific writer, principally of poetry but has also written a children’s book.

Further reading

Bab L’ Bluz’s Yousra Mansour guests on BBC Music Life podcast

Yousra discusses her creative processes with Derya Yildirim, Hasan Nakhleh, Merve Erdem.

Bokanté feature as part of GroundUP Music’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

A three-act 18 person episode convened (virtually) by Snarky Puppy's Michael League.

Remix Contest: ‘Love’ by Les Amazones d’Afrique

Les Amazones d’Afrique invite you to remix ‘Love’ from their new album Amazones Power

10 tracks from across the globe to check out right now

Listen to these great tracks and many more on our regularly updated World playlist.