Born in Melbourne in 1921, Don Harper showed an interest in music from an early age, learning to play the violin as a child. His formal study began at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music.
In later years he would become the successful conductor of one of Australia's most popular big bands as well as being a prolific film and television composer.
In 1963 he emigrated to England, and found himself much in demand for television scores. During his seven-year stay in the country he provided music for World of Sport and Sexton Blake amongst other popular series.
Returning to Australia in 1970, Don Harper would regularly be seen performing on Australian television and on radio as well as in many jazz clubs across the country. He also toured with the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
In 1983 Harper took up the position of Head of Jazz Studies at Wollongong University's School of Creative Arts, a position he held until 1990.
His most popular recording was "The Hot Canary".
He died in 1999, aged 78.
In 2005, MF DOOM and Danger Mouse, in their collaborative project DangerDoom, sample Don Harper's "Chamber Pop" and "Thoughtful Popper". Elements of "Dark Earth" from the Dawn of the Dead soundtrack were sampled on "Intro" by Gorillaz from Demon Days, which was also produced by Danger Mouse.