Joe Henry

For the baseball player, see Joe Henry (baseball).
Joe Henry

Joe Henry at the 2010 Pop Conference
Background information
Birth name Joseph Lee Henry
Born December 2, 1960 (1960-12-02) (age 56)
Charlotte, North Carolina
Origin United States
Genres Alt-americana/jazz
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, musician, record producer
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active 1986–present
Labels Profile, Mammoth, ANTI-
Associated acts Ani DiFranco, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, Billy Bragg
Joe Henry at Aarhus Festival 2015
Photo Hreinn Gudlaugsson

Joseph Lee "Joe" Henry (born December 2, 1960) is an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer. He has released 13 studio albums and produced multiple recordings for other artists, including three Grammy Award-winning albums.[1][2]

Early life

Henry was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, the state where his parents, whom he described as devout Christians, were also from.[3] He eventually grew up in the Detroit, Michigan area, and graduated from the University of Michigan.


1985 to 2005

Henry moved to Brooklyn, NY in 1985 and began performing in local music venues. He released his first album "Talk of Heaven" in 1986. The album earned him a recording contract with A&M, which subsequently released the albums Murder of Crows in 1989 and Shuffletown in 1990.[4] Shuffletown, produced by T-Bone Burnett, represented a shift in musical direction towards the "alt country" genre. Henry's next two recordings, Short Man's Room (1992) and Kindness of the World (1993), utilized members of the country-rock band the Jayhawks. The song "King's Highway" was later recorded by Joan Baez in 2003 and Gov't Mule in 2005. For his 1996 album Trampoline, Henry incorporated guitarist Page Hamilton of Helmet and a reviewer at Trouserpress called the album "idiosyncratic broadmindedness."[5]

1999's Fuse was recorded with producers Daniel Lanois and T-Bone Burnett. The album was called an "atmospheric marvel" by one reviewer[6] and Ann Powers of the New York Times wrote: Henry has "found the sound that completes his verbal approach."[7]

Scar, released in 2001, featured jazz musicians Marc Ribot, Brian Blade, Brad Mehldau and saxophonist Ornette Coleman on "Richard Pryor Addresses A Tearful Nation." According to Allmusic's Thom Jurek, the album is a "triumph not only for Henry—who has set a new watermark for himself—but for American popular music, which so desperately needed something else to make it sing again."

2003's self-produced Tiny Voices album was Henry's first recording on Epitaph's Anti label. Jurek described this album as "the sound of....electric guitars in an abandoned yet fully furnished Tiki bar in Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles."

Henry's wife talked him into letting her send Madonna, who is her sister, a demo of his song "Stop," which was reworked and recorded as "Don't Tell Me" (from Madonna's 2000 album Music). Henry's own tango-tinged version of the song appeared on Scar and was featured in an episode of "The Sopranos." Henry and his sister-in-law recorded a duet, "Guilty By Association," on the charity album Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation, and collaborated on the songs "Jump" on Confessions on a Dance Floor, "Devil Wouldn't Recognize You" on Hard Candy, and "Falling Free" on MDNA.

In the early 2000s, Henry was an inaugural member of the Independent Music Awards' judging panel to support independent artists.[8]

2006 to present

Joe Henry at The Garfield House, 2009

After producing the Grammy-award-winning album Don't Give Up on Me by Solomon Burke,[9] Henry produced additional records and in 2006 opened up a home studio where he often collaborates with recording engineer Ryan Freeland and Los Angeles-based musicians such as Jay Bellerose, Greg Leisz, David Piltch, Patrick Warren and Keefus Ciancia.[10] In September 2006, Henry and Loudon Wainwright III began composing the music for the Judd Apatow movie Knocked Up in Henry's home studio. Some instrumentals were used as background score for the film while other songs appeared on Wainwright's 2007 Strange Weirdos which Henry produced.

In 2007, Henry released Civilians, which was described as "a rich, acoustic affair that returns us to Henry's rootsier sounds".[11] The final track on the album, "God Only Knows," was used in a "TCM Remembers 2008" TV commercial. Bonnie Raitt's 2012 album Slipstream, which Henry produced, contained versions of two songs from Civilians.

In 2009, Henry released his ninth solo record, Blood From Stars which incorporates orchestral blues with guitarist Marc Ribot, pianist Jason Moran and his son on saxophone. The album focuses on facets of blues with a sprinkling of jazz, rock and pop and traces the rugged history of American storytelling."[12]

In May 2011, Henry released the album Reverie with simple acoustic instrumention on guitar, upright bass, piano and drums.[13] "When you listen to Reverie, especially on headphones, you can hear traffic in the background or a neighbor calling her dog. It's not always a pristine recording environment. Henry not only left the windows open at his basement studio, but also put microphones on them."[14] "But there was this singer-songwriter environment, this post-Dylan fallout, of people who think that pages of your diary set to music are songs, and that the more 'honest' songs are, the better they are. And that's the greatest misconception of American popular music: that if you're being honest, you're being entertaining."[15]

In June 2014, Henry released his thirteenth album, Invisible Hour. It was recorded at his LA home studio, The Garfield House, in 2013 with his regular band of musicians (Jay Bellerose, Jennifer Condos, Levon Henry, Greg Leisz, John Smith, and David Piltch). Guests providing backing vocals on the album included The Milk Carton Kids and Lisa Hannigan. Paste magazine described it as "11 impossibly beautiful songs" and "Joe Henry's masterpiece".[16]


Henry has been described as "a modest-selling 'critic's darling' with a reputation for pushing the envelope"[17] and who writes "songs [that] don't fit into an easily defined box"[18] and instead is influenced by folk, blues, jazz, rock and country.

Personal life

Since 1987 Henry has been married to Melanie Ciccone, and they have two children.[19] Melanie is the sister of entertainer Madonna.

In 2013, Henry and his brother David released a biography of Richard Pryor, titled Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him.

Joe Henry and his family moved out of their home (and his long-time recording space), The Garfield House, in early 2015.[20]



(All produced or co-produced by Joe Henry except Shuffletown and Murder of Crows)


Production credits

Songwriting credits


  1. Don't Give Up On Me by Solomon Burke (Best Contemporary Blues Album, 2002), A Stranger Here by Ramblin' Jack Elliott (Best Traditional Blues Album, 2009), Genuine Negro Jig by Carolina Chocolate Drops (Best Traditional Folk Album, 2010). See
  2. Unknown (November 10, 2011)Joe Henry and Eclectic and Raucous Reverie NPR, retrieved June 30, 2012
  3. "Joe Henry - The Mystery and Adventure of Life and Songwriting". On Being with Krista Tippett. Retrieved June 17, 2015.
  4. "". Joe Henry Biography.
  5. Joe Henry Trouserpress
  6. Moerer, Keith. "Fuse ( description)".
  7. Powers, Ann (March 16, 1999). "Pop Review; When the Main Event is Metaphor, t's Easy to Get Lost.". New York Times.
  8. Independent Music Awards – Past Judges
  9. "(Grammy official website)".
  10. Schultz, Barbara. "Meshell Ndegeocello". Electronic Musician.
  11. Marshall, Claudia. "Joe Henry Returns to His Roots". National Public Radio.
  12. "Joe Henry: Feeling a Darkness". National Public Radio.
  13. "Reverie: Album Credits". AllMusicGuide.
  14. "Joe Henry's Raw, Raucous 'Reverie'". National Public Radio.
  15. DeCurtis, Anthony. "Regarding (joe) Henry". Orlando Sentinel.
  16. Whitman, Andy. "Joe Henry: Invisible Hour Review". Paste Magazine.
  17. Scoppa, Bud. "Production Notes: Joe Henry". Paste Magazine.
  18. Whitman, Andy. "A Very Personal, Highly Idiosyncratic Musical Overview of the Aughts". Paste Magazine.
  19. Joe Henry Iceberg Radio
  20. "The Garfield House | Joe Henry". Retrieved 2016-10-06.
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