Paul Wilson: Michael Franti & Spearhead Coming to Crossroads 9/27

Michael+Franti++Spearhead+michael_frantiIn 2011 I went to see George Clinton and P-Funk for the 14,000th time…

I was perfectly content arriving a little late as the opening act, Michael Franti and Spearhead, was largely going to be a waste of time until I could see who I came to see.

Huge mistake.

With no basis in fact, I wrote Franti off – having assigned the “reggae” tag to his music – not my favorite genre.

All but his most ardent fans know Franti primarily from his 2008 and 2012 efforts, “Say Hey (I Love You)” or “The Sound of Sunshine,” but there’s a lot more to this guy and like any artist his background defines his work.

Franti was born in 1966 in Oakland, CA. His dad was African-American and Native American, his mom an amalgamation of German, Irish and French. At birth, she feared her family wouldn’t accept Michael so she put him up for adoption.

Mull that over for a minute.

It’s 1966 in San Francisco, about anything was cool there even then. And look at his mom’s own mixed heritage, but she painfully gave up her son over a fear of a lack of acceptance.

Franti was immediately taken in by a white, professional couple who had three biological kids but adopted two African-American sons. Franti was welcomed, lovingly, into a mixed race family, one that they created with intent.

0001053920_500It was in high school and college that Franti became friends with a Priest who taught him creative writing skills, how to put thoughts to paper and leading to his exploration of poetry. He bought a guitar and started writing songs, inspired by the hip hop, punk, and reggae that was being played on the campus radio station at the University of SF.

His professional career started in 1986 with his first band, The Beatnigs, playing industrial punk and spoken word. They broke up and he formed The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, as Franti’s anger years set in. He was writing highly politically charged lyrics that railed against world’s injustice and social issues of the day. They garnered limited mainstream attention but they were asked by U2 to open for their Zoo TV Tour.

Hero’s disbanded, Franti formed Spearhead and after 20 years of struggle became an overnight success with the release of All Rebel Rockers and the single “Say Hey (I Love You)”.

It had a slow start, but Franti actually credits Midwest radio stations and fans for making that song what it was, a year after its release.

I can’t document it for sure, but I think the first time he came to our area was a 2006 appearance at “Tickarusa” aka Wakarusa.

By 2010 his songs were getting play in commercials, movies, TV shows and “The Sound of Sunshine” became Frant’s most commercially viable project.

95855022_640His music had started to make a change commensurate with his personal life change. 

“My appendix ruptured suddenly in the middle of a tour and I ended up in the hospital for eight days while they figured out what was wrong with me,” recalls Franti. “I almost died and I wrote many of these songs coming out of that experience while I was in the hospital for another week or so after that. During that time, I really took a moment to prioritize what’s truly important in my life — and in the end, that’s really about the people who I love.  Even in that hospital, I could laugh with the people I love, cry with them, and start to find the sun again.”

While his trademark, socially conscious lyrics are still firmly in place, Frante’s cranking out some really positive, happy music. It’s not as politically in your face, he’s not the angry young man he once was but still very much the poet and activist he’s always been. And man, what a fresh, clean sound. Positive messages, hope, love and joy, all make for a highly marketable, listenable album and something you don’t want to miss.

Now, he’s touring for the release of “All People.” It’s the best possible combination of reggae groove with a side order of folk, rock, hip hop, pop, jazz and funk

To summarize Franti and his music, no one says it better than Franti himself:

“Music is sunshine. Like sunshine, music is a powerful force that can instantly and almost chemically change your entire mood. Music gives us new energy and a stronger sense of purpose.”

“Music is something you can’t hold in your hands, smell it, taste it or even see it, yet somehow just coming together and feeling these little vibrations that tickle our eardrums can somehow lift us all up out of our most difficult moments in life to unimaginable heights.”

Come out to the Crossroads on the on 27th and see who I consider the most positive, socially conscious artist in music today. No nude girls swinging from “wrecking balls,” no twerkfest, no GaGa-tation or boy band BS here.

Just great sound and happy music with a positive spin.

All you need is love.

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13 Responses to Paul Wilson: Michael Franti & Spearhead Coming to Crossroads 9/27

  1. mike t. says:

    i think i can smell the ganja now.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Ahhh, Mikey T, you know, maaan, it will be in da air.

      • mike t. says:

        that i know what it smells like is enough for anyone to know. but i also know it doesn’t smell like it used to. *sigh*

        • paulwilsonkc says:

          Yeah, whats up with that? Is it now like natural gas, they ADD a scent so you know its leaking? I dont remember (from my old days of course) there being such a similarity to SKUNK!!

          • the dude says:

            Ah, the blessed smell of the dank skunk.
            You missed a good set Paul, these guys are good.
            Franti puts some thought in his lyrics.

          • paulwilsonkc says:

            Dude, I actually ended up NOT missing it. I missed the first couple songs, but that was it. Thats why I said my decision to me late was a HUGE mistake. I’ve seen him since, love his whole show.
            Come on down the27th….

          • Balbonis Moleskine says:

            > I dont remember (from my old days of course) there being such a similarity to SKUNK!!

            Paul, there is an interesting story behind SKUNK #1. It was essentially one of the first highly hybridized strains grown under greenhouse conditions in Amsterdam. Without getting too much into it is essentially “Acapulco Gold” crossed with Afghani to make it more resiny and potent.

            Skunk #1 is then often re-crossed with other sativa hybrids to make endless other strains.

            Essentially over the decades people who knew how to grow good stuff went from using geographical varietals with a very pure genetics (Acapulco Gold, Thai Stick, Afghani) to taking those and crossing them to make super potent, hearty and higher yield crop that was a genetic hybrid.

            Commercially though you can thank the British Tourist for the popularity of Skunk #1 across the world. It is the strain of choice for the UK and the large amounts of weekend tourists who come to Amsterdam via cheap RyanAir flights. Americans prefer even heavier strains. The Dutch, oddly enough tend to like milder pot.

  2. GW says:

    Great article, Franti sounds like a true artist. Paul Cezanne said ,
    “A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art. “

  3. PB says:

    So Paul, can we expect to see you up on stage with the boys and girls then?

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      No, PB, not me; but it would be way cool to see my wife up there doing backup, however! She could set the vocals on fire! The last thing they need is an old, fat guy on stage, not too marketable.

  4. wooly says:

    but he’s a negro and you hate negros. it is a well-known fact.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Now, Wooly… ( Can I call you Wake instead, since you were WAKE yesterday?).

      I warned you about the pictures I have of you and Puggles, so be nice. And I apologize for not smashing my keyboard as you requested, you had to endure more spewing drivel from me. Im terribly sorry.

      This is a good and decent story and you have no idea what you’re talking about. If you read the content, big words included, you can’t JUST look at the pictures, you’d see you’re all wet on that accusation. Just because I place blame where blame belongs, in other stories, doesn’t make me a racist.

      Now, Wake, I know it’s a little boring down there on the farm, but get out, ride the tractor, go fishing, ride into Freeman and get some beers. Don’t just sit around and hate.

      It’s a gorgeous day and I LOVE being out in nature, in spite of what it’s clearly done to you.

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