Sam Harris' career has spanned more than two decades in the public eye and run the gamut from singer/songwriter to stage, film, television actor to writer, producer, director. Born in Oklahoma, Sam performed in his first play when he was five and was known to jump on any makeshift stage, be it a wooden crate or a dining room table, and belt out a tune.
He left home at the age of 15 to pursue his career, learning the ropes through regional and repertory theatre. He finished high school through correspondence courses and then attended UCLA in Los Angeles, where he co-wrote (with Bruce H. Newberg) and starred in Hurry! Hurry! Hollywood!, the first original musical in which the theatre and music departments collaborated. He also received the Frank Sinatra Pop Singing Award where the legendary Chairman of the Board said to an enthusiastic audience, "This kid's got `it'! Sam, don't get any better till I get out of the business." It was the validation he needed to leave school for the real world.
For the next two years, Sam played "every dump and dive in LA," for a measly $25 a set. From these shows emerged his first solo stint, Out of Control, which opened with Sam singing "God Bless the Child" in a straight jacket. The show garnered a kind of cult following that Los Angeles Magazine called "Harrisites," and caught the attention of talent scouts from an upcoming new television talent show. In an oversized tailcoat and Converse sneakers, Sam became a household name on Star Search in its premiere season. 25 million viewers tuned in week after week to follow him as he created his own pop, gospel and theatre brand of emotionally charged performances, finally winning the grand prize and the hearts of America.
His phenomenal "overnight" rise catapulted him into recording industry, where he sold over a million copies of both Sam Harris and Sam-I-Am, which he also produced. Concert tours, including a legendary performance at Carnegie Hall, replaced his Mac-n-Cheese days and the little white kid with the soulful voice was suddenly in every magazine and on every talk show. Worldwide, he headlined at the San Remo Festival, the Montreaux Festival, and played London to standing ovations.
Simultaneously, he created and wrote the TBS sitcom, Down to Earth with college cohort Bruce H. Newberg, which ran for 4 years. At the request of Elizabeth Taylor, Sam became one of the first celebrities to lead the fight against AIDS. It would mark the beginning of his work as an activists for human rights, for which he has performed in countless benefits. (Sam has personally collected funds in every major theatre in the country for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. He has also worked to raise funds and awareness for a number of children's health organizations and he continues to fight for equal rights and campaign for fair-minded politicians daily.)
After touring in concert for several years, Sam began itching for the theatre again, and he starred in productions of Cabaret, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and the self-penned shows Different Hats and, most notably, Hard Copy, in which he portrayed six different characters frequenting an all night news stand. The show was a huge success, garnering myriad awards, and Sam's writing and acting skills were now coming to the fore front.
He continued to record, this time reflecting his love of classics and Broadway songs on the critically acclaimed cds, Standard Time and Different Stages, both produced, arranged and conducted by the legendary Peter Matz. This cd was recorded the old fashioned way - live with the orchestra - and the result was two records which have appeared on numerous "best of" lists and have become classics of the genre.
Broadway called and Sam moved to New York, where he received a Drama Desk nomination for his role in Tommy Tune's Grease. Immediately following, he toured for 15 months in the Broadway National tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, where sales records were broken all over the country. Soon after, Sam next starred in Cy Coleman's The Life, for which he received the Drama-League Award as well as Tony, Outer Critic's Circle and Drama Desk nominations. Soon after, Sam went to work on the development of The Jazz Singer, playing the legendary Al Jolson, known as "the greatest entertainer in the world." While the Broadway production was thwarted, Sam was clearly in a new league when the New York Times remarked, "Who else could play this role? Sam Harris is the only performer today whose charisma and raw magnetism is absolutely Jolson-esque."
Sam returned to his pop roots on the cd, Revival, and performed the show of the same name at New York's famed The Bottom Line, further displaying his writing, comic and now, political prowess in conjunction with an eclectic mix of music, which has now become his trademark. Though humor had always been a part of a Sam Harris show, comedy/storytelling and social commentary were fast becoming as important an aspect as his singing.
The Best of the Motown Sessions was also released and followed by his first holiday recording, On This Night, as well as a double cd of love songs, entitled Always, and his second holiday recording,The Best of Christmas - Sam Harris Live!
While he continued to tour nationally, Sam also co-produced the television special "Love Letter to New York" and supervised and arranged several songs and supervised segments of "Michael Jackson's 30 Year Anniversary Special". Sam then moved back to Los Angeles and had barely unpacked when he returned to New York in Mel Brook's smash hit The Producers on Broadway.
Throughout his career, Sam has made appearances on numerous television shows and specials and in countless live productions, working with the legends who influenced him such as Stevie Wonder, Elizabeth Taylor, Sammy Davis Jr., Elton John, Al Green and, most importantly, a long time collaboration and friendship with the great Liza Minnelli. He has performed at the White House. He has made guest appearances on every talk show. (In the 80's a very young Sam appeared on shows such as Arsenio Hall, The Joan Rivers Show, Merv Griffin, Geraldo, American Bandstand, Soul Train, etc.) As the "Star Search Poster Boy" image finally began to take a back seat to other aspects of his career, he has appeared on numerous shows such as The Tonight Show, The Today Show, Rosie, The View, Barbara Walters Show, and, in an historic time, performed a stirring "You'll Never Walk Alone" on The Oprah Winfrey Show in the week following September 11th, 2001.
Sam's found great triumph in the live show which bared the title he can now claim: SAM. Critics shouted unequaled praise, making it the single most lauded show of the season. He has toured major cities with SAM., accompanied by his long time music director, the brilliantly talented Todd Schroeder. Sam also appears with popular symphonies such as The Boston Pops. He also participated in Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" Tour and makes guest appearances on television and at numerous, charity, political and social awareness events close to his heart.
As "Perry Pearl" on the CBS sitcom, "The Class", Sam's chameleonic career took a new turn as a series regular on network television. Popular columnist Liz Smith wrote, "Sam Harris is the comic breakout of the television season!"
Soon after, Sam began "vlogging" (video blogging) on SamTube.com and became an internet phenomenon, receiving millions of views, following his life on stage/set and off as well as his opinions, comic social observations and political perspectives. When Sam returned to the studio to record his the cd, "Free," his original material reflected a fearless openness about his life and views, including the single, "Change Is On The Way," which was written and used for the President Obama campaign.
Another monumental influence of this creative shift was the adoption of Cooper Atticus Harris-Jacobsen, and the subsequent marriage to his long time partner, Danny. The couple have been together for 16 years. The adoption and their marriage was covered by every major news source and Sam became an icon of the modern family and equal rights. With the passing of Proposition 8, Sam was moved to co-write and record "My Reclamation" - which is quickly becoming the anthem for equal marriage rights.
Sam now maintains a busier life than ever - balancing his roles as father, husband, actor, recording artist, writer and all around entertainer. He recently completed a recurring role on "Rules of Engagement," an appearance on "Tyra" about marriage rights, created an original role in the musical "The First Wives Club," and is currently developing a television series and the now, re-ignited musical in which he stars as the darkly complex and charismatic Al Jolson, while he continues to perform in concert all over the country.