Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals bass player Juan Nelson passed away on Wednesday at age 62. The musician performed with the group for nearly three decades, and as Harper reflected via Instagram, “It’s near impossible for me to put words to this pain and loss.,” describing Nelson as “Beloved husband, father, musical genius, BHIC band member of 27 years, and the finest man I’ve ever known.”
Nelson, who was born on August 24, 1958 in Cincinnati, OH relocated to California in the late 1960’s. His first gig with Harper in the lineup that became the Innocent Criminals was on April 30, 1994 at Nick’s Caffé Trevi in Claremont, CA. Nelson’s recording career with Harper spanned from 1995’s Fight for Your Mind through 2016’s Call It What It Is and also included the Grammy-winning There Will Be A Light with the Blind Boys of Alabama. While best-known for his expressive and colorful efforts on bass, Nelson also was a producer, composer, and songwriter. Over the years he appeared with Big Advice, Vesta Williams, All For One, Brenda Russell Freddy Jackson, Tower of Power and many others. Beyond his performances in the rock setting, Nelson was devoted to his church, where he often performed, noting, “I love to play music, it fulfills me and if it touches somebody, that’s a blessing!”
In lieu of flowers the family set up a GoFundMe page to help with immediate expenses including remaining medical bills.