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Ben Sidran
Photo of Ben Sidran
At the Le Sunside jazz club in Paris, 2004
Background information
Birth nameBen Hirsh Sidran
Born (1943-08-14) August 14, 1943 (age 80)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
GenresJazz, rock
Occupation(s)Musician, producer, label owner
Instrument(s)Keyboards, vocals
Years active1960s–present
LabelsBlue Thumb, Arista, Windham Hill, Go Jazz, Nardis

Ben Hirsh Sidran (born August 14, 1943)[1] is an American jazz and rock keyboardist, producer, label owner, and music writer. Early in his career he was a member of the Steve Miller Band and is the father of Grammy-nominated musician, composer and performer Leo Sidran.[2][3]

Life and career

He was born in Chicago, Illinois, United States.[1] Sidran was raised in Racine, Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1961, where he became a member of The Ardells with Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs.[4] When Miller and Scaggs left Wisconsin for the West Coast, Sidran stayed behind to earn a degree in English literature. After graduating in 1966, he enrolled in the University of Sussex, England, to pursue a PhD. While in England, he was a session musician for Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Peter Frampton, and Charlie Watts.

Sidran joined Steve Miller as keyboardist and songwriter on recording projects, appearing on the albums Brave New World, Your Saving Grace, Number 5, and Recall the Beginning...A Journey from Eden.[1] He produced Recall the Beginning and co-wrote the hit song "Space Cowboy." In 1988, he produced Miller's jazz album Born 2B Blue. He has also produced albums for Mose Allison, Van Morrison, Rickie Lee Jones, and Diana Ross.[4]

Sidran returned to Madison, Wisconsin, in 1971 and has spent most of his life there. He taught courses at the university (on the business of music) and beginning in 1981 hosted jazz radio programs for NPR (including the Peabody Award-winning Jazz Alive series) and TV programs for VH1 (where his New Visions series in the early 1990s won the Ace Award).[5] While hosting that series, Sidran frequently expressed his desire to "demystify the world of jazz; jazz musicians are just like the rest of us, only more so."

As a musician and a producer he has released over 35 solo recordings.

His written works include the book Black Talk on the sociology of black music in America;[1] the memoir A Life in the Music, published in 2003 and detailing his musical career;[6]Talking Jazz, a collection of his historic interviews with jazz musicians; There Was a Fire: Jews, Music and the American Dream, a cultural history of the Jewish contribution to American popular music during the 20th century and a finalist for the 2012 National Jewish Book Award; and The Ballad of Tommy LiPuma, a biography of the record producer Tommy LiPuma.

His 24-CD box set Talking Jazz includes an 80-page booklet with essays from writers, critics and musicians, classic photos from Lee Tanner, and 24 compact discs featuring conversations with 60 jazz musicians, recorded during a five-year period for Sidran's award-winning NPR program Sidran on Record. The 24 CDs orchestrated by Sidran document the speaking voice of jazz musicians, including Miles Davis, Art Blakey, and others.

Sidran has been referred to by the Chicago Sun Times as a "Renaissance man cast adrift in a modern world" and by The Times as "the first existential jazz rapper," in reference to his commentary while playing music.

A complete compendium of Sidran's work, live gigs, videos, productions, interviews and writings can be found online.


As leader

As sideman

With Steve Miller

With others


  1. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 2261/2. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ "Bio".
  3. ^ "BBC World Service - Music Life, Music is abstract, lyrics are concrete, with Elvis Costello, Marisa Monte, Jorge Drexler and Leo Sidran".
  4. ^ a b Newsom, Jim. "Ben Sidran | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  5. ^ "Ben Sidran, 'Talking Jazz' with the Masters". NPR Music. June 30, 2007.
  6. ^ Ben Sidran: A Life in the Music. Taylor Trade Publishing. 2003. ISBN 9780878332915.