• A place at the table for Macedonia | September, 2010
• Morten Harket Sings a New Song | November, 2007
• Bryan Ferry in a New Town | October, 2007
• In Search of a Midnight Sun | June, 2006
• Decade | June, 2006
• The Leadership of Ronald Reagan | June, 2004
• Where the Monks Drive Range Rovers | December, 2000


Morten Harket Sings a New Song
November, 2007


Morten Harket cheerily greets me at breakfast in the top floor restaurant of our hotel for the weekend, the Denarius Villa, overlooking Lake Ohrid, his hair a foppish tangle. “I see we both slept in our clothes last night!” he chuckles in his Norwegian British-tinged accent.  And it’s true.  I’m wearing the exact same blue jeans, dark green button-down shirt and black dress jacket I donned the day before, though I assure him I’ve changed my essentials, and I trust he, his.  And he’s wearing, well, he’s wearing rock star garb but the same as the night before.  I can’t recall what he was wearing as I write this, but I think it involved something suitably black.

Through my various connections I managed to inveigle him to come to Macedonia in October along with his friend and collaborator, Sigurjon Einarsson, for a weekend to speak, not sing, at a conference the Government hosted, together with UNESCO, on religious and civilizational dialogue.  Having known that he has a deeply curious and spiritual side, and the Government having wanted to host an individual of his caliber, it all made for a perfect harmonic convergence, as it were.  When we invited him, he was nearing completion of a new solo album, Letter from Egypt, a follow-up to his 1995 solo album Wild Seed, and as he told me and others that weekend, “I couldn’t come here due to my time commitments with the new album but it was just too important a conference not to come to.”  Hmmmm.  Betwixt and between, me thinks.  This is a prime example of how his mind works, a quixotic push-me-pull-you type of thinking.

If you think Morten Harket has been sitting on his duff these past many years since you heard Take on Me or The Living Daylights then you’d best put your thinking in reverse.  As the lead singer of a-ha and as a solo artist, he’s sold close to 40 million albums and who knows how many singles.  2007 marked the 25th anniversary of a-ha and yes, they are still going strong though they’re all taking a break as a group at the moment.  Together with his band-mates, he recently received recognition at the BMI Awards in London for having achieved three million airplays in the United States of Take on Me – the equivalent of more than 17 years of continuous airplay.  On top of that, a-ha holds the Guinness World Record for the largest paying audience ever, 194,000 in 1991 in Rio. He’s influenced major bands of today such as Coldplay, Audioslave and Oasis. If that wasn’t achievement enough he’s been active in environmental issues and renewable energy issues most of his life along with the independence movement in East Timor.  Now he’s interested in helping them develop their country.  Back in his native Norway, Morten has been active in Marita, a Norwegian NGO dedicated to helping drug addicts escape their life of addiction. There are numerous other charitable causes he has lent his time, name and considerable fame to as well.

And then there’s the new album.  Busy man he is.
Back at Lake Ohrid he speaks to the 400 plus assembled from all over the world.  While the spiritual are decked out in all manner of flowing, colorful robes and the secular in suits, he’s definitely in rock star mode both mentally and physically.  As I try to get him to the dinner on time, he simply jokes with an impish smile, “I’m a rock star.  I can arrive whenever I want.”  While we arrive slightly later than what was requested, Prime Minister Gruevski, who met him earlier, arrives even later meaning even Morten must wait, surrounded by adoring fans and a clutch of mystified clergy who think they are the star of the evening.  I’m slightly horrified at the situation but he takes it in stride.  Johnny Cash all-black is his preferred attire this evening including what must be an expensive black leather bomber jacket and exquisite silver necklace.  I introduce him, a singular honor I choose to keep to myself not knowing if any imams, rabbis, priests or politicians present will be able to do so adequately, and he takes the podium and begins with….a question.

“And the answer is…”  Dramatic pause.  “And the answer is….”  Another dramatic pause as he gazes out on the forest of robes and suits.  “I’m sorry what was the question again?”  Right.  With a certain air of élan, he’s standing like he’s singing at a concert, slightly tilted, and he’s holding his notes in his right hand instead of a microphone.  He’s definitely on.  The audience is his now, raptly listening, trying to figure it all out as he pushes the proverbial rhetorical envelope.  A few minutes later he hits the middle of his remarks.  “All came out of nothing!?...You don’t have to turn to religion to look for God. Just look around you, and see that everything is something – and goes from something, to something else. It doesn’t stop!”  Half the audience is mystified now, but the other half is quickly getting it.  And so it goes.

A solid round of applause, dinner, and a plethora of photographs and autographs later and we find our merry little troop of four out and about Ohrid looking for a drink or two.  We content ourselves with the outdoor patio of the Aquarius bar on the edge of the lake since inside the air is thick with great plumes of acrid cigarette smoke.  The 55 years plus manager knows who Morten is and gives us some of his home-made rakija, the local firewater, but the night air off the lake grows chill and we amble back to the hotel and repair to his room.  Fortified by a bottle of Tikves 2005 Limited Edition Merlot he serenades us, and himself, with a few songs from his new album on his computer and on the guitar Phil Everly (yes, the Phil Everly) gave him in 1987 while Sigurjon shows us the artwork.  This is slumming, rock ‘n roll style.  ‘Tis a satisfying evening.

The new album he is so busily working on partly explains Morten Harket.  Having spent one year of his university years studying ancient Greek so that he could better understand the New Testament, Morten is, as he describes himself, insatiably curious about life and there is almost no subject that doesn’t pique his ken.  While his gentlemanly side shines through the weekend (unflappably polite in meeting, talking, signing autographs and having his picture taken), he also asks myriad questions about Macedonia, the region and the nature of mankind, answering many on his own, in a way, sharing his own thoughts.

At 48 years young, Morten Harket is in superb shape and his voice, well…it’s still the inimitable and indomitable voice of Morten Harket as I catch him singing snippets here and there.  He admits that he doesn’t really exert himself on a physical level, with the exception of walking, and claims that it’s all genetic, a true blessing I remind myself especially when I’m drenched in sweat from jogging though we both agree swimming is best.  His deep ice-blue eyes reveal a certain boyish wonderment and playfulness and with his fetching and sharply chiseled Nordic good looks, he is the quintessential rock god, something he has resigned himself to.  He readily tells me that he found university math, physics and biochemistry boring so he went to London with the intention of becoming a rock star, which helps to explain his belief in faith and a healthy helping of stick-to-itiveness, something perhaps akin to the “faith the size of a mustard seed” analogy.

At just shy of 48 hours, hanging out with Morten is like hanging out with an older brother, albeit a massively famous one.  We debate, swap views on politics and religion, the need for more humility among our so-called leaders and a host of other subjects, and trade good-natured barbs, though he decks me once with a left hook.  I’m kidding about that last one.  Tentatively, I convince him to visit my home state of Arizona and hike the Grand Canyon where one can learn much about humility (“I’ll bring the guitar, you bring the whisky” he promises) and I learn that for Morten Harket, at least, life is a wondrous thing, a gift to be cherished, pursued and honored – as he positively avers, “I’m in love with life.”  The dignity of each individual man, woman and child, too often trampled upon or deliberately destroyed in our world today, is something he strongly believes we must value, hold up and if necessary, fight for.  As he closes his remarks in Ohrid, he simply reaffirms what we should all know and practice:  “Every human being is a true spiritual being, and it is our nature to be free to reach out in wonder. We are created this way. No man has the right to violate this in another fellow being. And it shouldn’t be necessary.  We are fools to use force – when we walk through open doors.”

Copyright ©
Jason Miko
Designed & hosted by
Jurak OT Petrof Studio