Ben Lee has quietly, consistently amassed an awfully impressive body of work over the past 20-plus years, to the point now where you look back in amazement that he’s only 37 years old. But he’s been an indie pop staple since the age of 14, and as he’s proved on his absolutely charming new album Love is the Great Rebellion, he’s only getting better as a singer-songwriter. Case in point: the album’s life-affirming track “Happiness”, which has been turned into the sweetest video you’ll ever see. We’ll let Ben tell the story.
“The song “Happiness” is one of my favorite songs I’ve written,” he tells PopMatters. “It manages to synthesize some complex philosophical and spiritual ideas and make it sound like a kids song – this is always the goal for me really: taking something complex and making it simple and digestible. The song is based on a very powerful teaching, that despite the suffering we find ourselves faced with in the world, despite our heartaches, struggles and challenges, we must always be happy. Defiantly happy. And I do not mean a Pollyanna-ish naivete, or blissful ignorance, but a true grounded happiness, rooted in reality, in our belief that we can always find our way back to the path of compassion, that we can always snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and that we in fact destined for something truly wonderful.
“My friend Matt Besser from the improv comedy group Upright Citizens Brigade sent me a video one day of his daughter dancing around the house to my song “Happiness”. It was a very organic moment that he had captured. She was obviously in a playful mood and was resonating with the message and atmosphere of the song. I watched the video several times, inspired by the simplicity of it, the primal innocence of a child at play. How easily a child bounces back from its own struggles, and reclaims its innate happiness. I guess thats why great spiritual masters have encouraged us to ‘have the mind of a child’.
“These thoughts inspired the idea of making a whole music video based on children simply reacting to the song. No prompting. No expectation. I asked my fans on social media to simply play the song for their kids and film them, whatever happened. The results were wonderful. Some kids seized the moment and put on a show, lip syncing and dancing. Others stood mute and confused. Others ran away. But all were innocent. In their own way, all were happy.
“I hope you enjoy this video. Thank you to all the families who took part. Thank you to my friend Matt Clarke, the creator of youtube comedy series ‘Convos With My Two Year Old’ for editing it so beautifully. And thank you to everyone who, in spite of the challenges we face individually and collectively, choose to remain indomitably, defiantly and rebelliously happy.”