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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

    Breakup Songs

    Breakup Songs
    1 song

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