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Ben Folds Five

Led by the pop-minded prowess of their namesake frontman, Ben Folds Five dispelled any misgivings about a band's ability to rock without guitars. Calling themselves "punk rock for sissies," the Chapel Hill natives were often grouped with the nerd rock movement of the mid-'90s, although their debt to jazz music -- not to mention Ben Folds' acerbic spin on the classic pianist/songwriter tradition -- ensured the trio a long-lasting legacy after their split in October 2000. The band also provided a launching pad for Folds himself, who continued releasing piano-based pop songs well into the subsequent years. The group's story is, in many ways, the story of its de facto leader and namesake, Ben Folds. The son of a carpenter, Folds was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Upon graduating high school in the mid-'80s, the young songwriter drifted from place to place in hopes of discovering a good scene to sow his brainchild. Throughout a decade in which hair bands ruled the airwaves, Folds spent frustrating stints in Miami, Chapel Hill, New York, and Europe before landing in Nashville in the early '90s. In spite the fact that Nashville was a songwriter's mecca, or because of it, Folds found the city's approach to songwriting frustrating and exclusive. While producers and managers wanted obvious hits, Folds wanted, instead, to follow his own muse, and a notoriously eccentric one at that. When Folds finally drifted back to Chapel Hill in 1994 he formed a piano-based trio with bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee, and within weeks, the band cut an indie single that attracted the attention of Caroline. Their 1995 self-titled debut sold enough copies to warrant the kind of major-label bidding war that young bands fantasize about. Eventually signing with Sony, the group released Whatever and Ever Amen and continued the strenuous touring schedule that the band had become known for. Releasing the singles "Battle of Who Could Care Less" and "Brick" into a climate awash with soundalike guitar bands, Ben Folds Five and their witty, offbeat, piano-based music were a welcome difference and the group became critical and commercial darlings. Inevitable comparisons to piano composers of yore such as Todd Rundgren, Billy Joel, and Joe Jackson followed, but the group fought hard to maintain their individuality. Over the next two years, Ben Folds Five kept their name in the press by releasing songs on soundtracks, as well as an album of outtakes, B-sides, and early live appearances called Naked Baby Photos. In early 1999 they released their third full-length album, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. In November 2000, Ben Folds Five abruptly announced their split, shocking fans and the media. However, the trio quickly announced that they would be pursuing individual projects. Bassist Robert Sledge was going to put his own group together while balancing his tour efforts with former Squirrel Nut Zippers multi-instrumentalist Tom Maxwell's group the Minor Drag. Drummer Darren Jessee also went after similar opportunities, playing club shows around New York City. Ben Folds didn't stop either, for the singer/pianist contributed "Lonely Christmas Eve" for the Grinch soundtrack, as well as the cut called "Wandering" for the 2000 independent comedy 100 Girls, before releasing a string of successful solo albums. The group re-formed in 2011, contributing a new track to Folds' 18-track The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective. They made it official the following year with the release of The Sound of the Life of the Mind, the band's fourth studio album, and first since 1999. ~ Steve Kurutz
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Stations Featuring
Ben Folds Five

    Coffeehouse Corner

    Coffeehouse Corner
    1 song

    '90s Alternative

    '90s Alternative
    4 songs

Albums by
Ben Folds Five

Top Songs by
Ben Folds Five

  1.   Song
  2.   Song for the Dumped
  3.   Brick
  4.   Army
  5.   One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces
  6.   Battle of Who Could Care Less
  7.   Do It Anyway
  8.   Evaporated
  9.   Underground
  10.   Uncle Walter
  11.   Draw a Crowd
  12.   Air
  13.   Jackson Cannery
  14.   Alice Childress
  15.   Philosophy
  16.   Don't Change Your Plans
  17.   Honey Don't (Alternate take)
  18.   Landed
  19.   The Sound of the Life of the Mind
  20.   Eddie Walker
  21.   Video Killed the Radio Star
  22.   Bad Idea
  23.   It's All Right With God (Mitch Easter Sessions)
  24.   Prince Charming (Mitch Easter Sessions 2000)
  25.   One Chord Blues/Billie's Bounce
  26.   On Being Frank
  27.   Sky High
  28.   Erase Me
  29.   Selfless, Cold and Composed
  30.   House
  31.   Kate
  32.   Your Redneck Past
  33.   Sports & Wine
  34.   Boxing
  35.   Julianne
  36.   Narcolepsy
  37.   Smoke
  38.   Video
  39.   Satan Is My Master
  40.   Mess
  41.   Don't Change Your Plans
  42.   She Don't Use Jelly
  43.   Theme From Dr. Pyser
  44.   Selfless, Cold and Composed
  45.   Song for the Dumped
  46.   Hava Nagila
  47.   Barrytown
  48.   For All the Pretty People
  49.   Cigarette
  50.   Steven's Last Night in Town
  51.   Champagne Supernova
  52.   Your Cheatin' Heart
  53.   Do It Anyway/Overture-Heaven on Their Minds
  54.   Hold That Thought
  55.   Michael Praytor, Five Years Later
  56.   Twin Falls
  57.   Lullabye
  58.   Regrets
  59.   Your Most Valuable Possession
  60.   Jane
  61.   Where's Summer B.?
  62.   Leather Jacket
  63.   Magic
  64.   Tom and Mary
  65.   Missing the War
  66.   Tom & Mary
  67.   All Shook Up
  68.   Tell Me What I Did
  69.   Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head
  70.   Thank You for Breaking My Heart
  71.   The Ultimate Sacrifice
  72.   Mitchell Lane
  73.   Steven's Last Night in Town
  74.   Hospital Song
  75.   Magic
  76.   Mess
  77.   Best Imitation of Myself
  78.   Missing the War
  79.   Emaline
  80.   Where's Summer B? (WNEW Studios; New York, NY 3/24/96)
  81.   Birds
  82.   Away When You Were Here
  83.   For Those of Ya'll Who Wear Fannie Packs
  84.   Fair
  85.   Dick Holster
  86.   Battle of Who Could Care Less
  87.   The Last Polka