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Michael Franti (born April 21, 1966, in Oakland, Californiamarker) is an Americanmarker poet, musician, and composer of African, Native American, Irish, French, and German descent.Franti is the creator and lead vocalist of Michael Franti & Spearhead, a band that blends hip hop with a variety of other styles including funk, reggae, jazz, folk, and rock. He is also an outspoken supporter for a wide spectrum of peace and social justice issues.

Biography

Personal life

Michael Franti was adopted by Carole Wisti and Charles Franti, a Finnish American couple in Oakland, who had three biological children and one other adopted African American son. Charles Franti was a professor in the department of epidemiology and preventive medicine of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and died in 2003. Michael's four siblings are named Rebecca, Sara, Dan, and Matthew. Michael attended Davis Senior High School and graduated from the University of San Franciscomarker. He has two sons: Ade with his wife Tara Franti-Rye, and Cappy from a previous relationship. At the fourth annual Mountain Jam Festival, he brought Cappy on stage to sing a song.

In 2000, Franti decided not to wear any shoes, initially for three days. Since then, Franti has been walking through life barefoot except for occasionally wearing Crocs as required to board an airplane or to be served in a restaurant. Franti simply prefers not to wear shoes.

Beatnigs (1986–1990)

Franti began his music career in 1986 as part of the industrial punk band The Beatnigs. While attending the University of San Francisco and living above KUSF he developed a fascination with music and decided to start a band. The Beatnigs included dancer and percussionist Rono Tse; the band released a self-titled LP and an EP Television on Alternative Tentacles records. The records received some critical acclaim but little notoriety beyond the San Francisco Bay Area.

Disposable Heroes (1991–1993)

His next project, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, found Franti continuing his collaboration with Tse, and working with jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter, and electronic musicians Mark Pistel (Consolidated) and Jack Dangers (Meat Beat Manifesto). The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy wrote biting, progressive lyrics that railed against the injustices of the world, set to a fusion of industrial and hip hop. Their first album, Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury (on Island Records), won acclaim for its social commentary, and they were chosen by U2 to open for their Zoo TV Tour.

Franti and the Disposable Heroes put together another record of music accompanying novelist William Burroughs' readings for an album entitled Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales. This album diverged greatly from the style of the band's previous work, as they were largely providing musical background and accompaniment to Burroughs' spoken readings from several of his books.

Michael Franti & Spearhead (1994–present)



In 1994, Franti formed a new band called Spearhead with a few studio musicians, including mainstay Carl Young, and announced the dissolution of Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Their first release,Home, in September 1994, was a departure from the politically charged rap of the Disposable Heroes and drew more from funk and soul music. The song "Positive", also from the album "Home", appeared on the "Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool" project album.

Their follow up album Chocolate Supa Highway was released in March 1997, with several changes in band members between releases. This album featured a return to hip hop elements and a pronounced reggae influence and included guest appearances by notables like Stephen Marley and Joan Osborne.

After releasing the two albums, the band split with Capitol Records (reportedly prompted by the label's repeated urging to perform with other artists like Will Smith). The band instead decided to create its own record label, Boo Boo Wax. Since Capitol Records owned the rights to the name "Spearhead," subsequent albums were all released as "Michael Franti & Spearhead."

In 1999, Franti began a deeper exploration of his music and politics. He returned the following year as an organizer and cultural worker tied to several intensifying political movements of the time, voicing his observations through his music. His song, "Sometimes," was included on the soundtrack to the 1999 film, Mystery Men, as well as the soundtrack to the 2006 film, Last Holiday.

Michael Franti & Spearhead released Stay Human in 2000 under their own label Boo Boo Wax in alignment with indie music label Six Degrees Records. The album's central theme was the unjust nature of the death penalty and other major themes included mass media monopolization, the prison-industrial complex and corporate globalization.

In an interview, Franti talked about the message of Stay Human: "Half the record is songs about what's happening in the world right now, and the other half is about how we cope with it as people who are concerned about what's going on," he said. "This specter of war, intimidation, this nation vs. the rest of the world, it wears us out. Half the record is a healthy dose of venting anger about that, and the other half is about how do we hold on to our spirituality, our community and our connectedness to each other." Franti left Six Degrees due to the labels' inability to properly promote the project, for poor record sales and frequent disagreements with the labels' founder Pat Berry.

Everyone Deserves Music was released in 2003. Franti composed many of the songs from his guitar and, like fellow 21st century cultural globalists Manu Chao and Ozomatli, continues to synthesize his eclectic influences. In a departure from the industrial sounds of the Beatnigs and Disposable Heroes, and the minimalism of early Spearhead, Franti's affirming lyrics are now set to swelling rock chords, while keeping a world-wise groove nodding towards reggae, dancehall, bossa nova, Afrobeat, and funk. Anthems like the title track "Everyone Deserves Music", "Yes I Will" and "Bomb The World" are constructed with a nod to the 1980s rock of The Clash and U2, as well as to classic soul from Stax and Motown. The song "We Don't Stop" (featuring Gift of Gab from Blackalicious and Spearhead's rapper/beatbox technician Radioactive) bridges the two sounds in a "Magnificent Seven" style mash-up. And on "Love Why Did You Go Away" and "What I Be", Franti reveals an alluring, sensual singing voice. "Pray For Grace" and "Bomb The World (Armageddon Version)" pair Franti with the reggae/funk giants Sly and Robbie (Grace Jones, Rolling Stones, Black Uhuru, No Doubt).

Also in 2003, Franti released a mostly acoustic album, Songs from the Front Porch containing rearranged versions of older songs from Chocolate Supa Highway, Stay Human and Everyone Deserves Music as well as a couple of new tracks.

On July 25, 2006, Michael Franti & Spearhead released Yell Fire!, inspired by Franti's trip to Israelmarker, Baghdadmarker, the West Bankmarker, and the Gaza Stripmarker. In an effort to share his experiences from his trip and to explore the human cost of war, Franti produced a movie entitled I Know I'm Not Alone, using the songs from his album Yell Fire! as a soundtrack. "One Step Closer To You" from Yell Fire! features Pink on backing vocals.

Michael Franti and Spearhead have taken a highly unconventional route to notoriety for an act with hip hop roots. Largely ignored by the traditional mainstream TV and radio channels of promotion, Franti and Spearhead have gained a passionate worldwide audience through extensive touring and appearances in alternative media like Mother Jones Magazine and Democracy Now.

Franti continues to hit the festival circuit worldwide, in addition to producing the annual Power to the Peaceful festival each year since 1999, with attendance around 50,000 in 2008. Michael Franti continues to gain influence in both popular music and social movements largely through extensive touring and word of mouth fan support. Lyrics from his song "Bomb The World", written in the dark aftermath of September 11 such as "You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can't bomb it into peace" have found their way onto protest signs and t-shirts all over the world from Los Angelesmarker to Berlinmarker, San Francisco to CNN, at demonstrations for peace large and small.

The song "Light Up Ya Lighter" by Michael Franti & Spearhead was included on the soundtrack to Body of War, an award-winning documentary about Tomas Young, a paralyzed Iraq War veteran.

The group's newest album All Rebel Rockers was released on September 9, 2008, which was largely recorded in Jamaica at the Anchor studio in St Andrew. The band worked with ubiquitous rhythm team Sly and Robbie and featured multi-talented vocalist Cherine Anderson on the set which entered the Billboard 200 pop chart in September at number 38. Michael Franti was recently featured on Aux.tv's show Volume where he spoke about U.S. politics and his efforts to make the world a better place

Michael Franti played three different events to commemorate President Barack Obama's inauguration: The Green Ball, The Peace Ball and the Rock the Vote Party.

Michael Franti announced in November 2009 that he would be joining musician John Mayer on the Battle Studies Tour in Spring 2010.

Politics

Franti is also an advocate for peace in the Middle East. His film I Know I'm Not Alone features footage of Iraq, the territories within the Palestinian Authority, and Israel. In 2006, he was invited by Australian MP Jenny Macklin to show the film at Australia's Parliament House, Canberramarker.

Franti is a vegan.

Discography

Solo

  • 2000: Live at the Baobab
  • 2003: Songs from the Front Porch


Spearhead

Studio albums



Singles

  • 2001: "Rock the Nation"
  • 2001: "Sometimes"
  • 2003: "Everyone Deserves Music"
  • 2003: "Bomb the World"
  • 2009: "Say Hey " #18 US


Live albums and compilations



Collaborations



The Beatnigs



The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy



Appearances in media

Franti's music was featured twice on HBO's critically acclaimed urban drama The Wire. "Oh My God" and "Rock The Nation", both from the album Stay Human were used in two different episodes during the series' first season. Michael's song "Everybody Ona Move" was featured in a 2009 PlayStation 3 commercial, and "Yell Fire" was used to promote the hit FX channel series Rescue Me. Showtime's Weeds featured Franti's song "Ganja Babe" in its first season, his interpretation of the Weeds theme song "Little Boxes" in Season 3, and "Say Hey" during a Flash Mob scene in the premier episode of Season 5. Philadelphia Phillies Centerfielder Shane Victorino uses the song "Light up Ya Lighter" as his batter walk up music. "Say Hey" was used on the 3rd episode of NBC's new series Mercy.

References

  1. Conscious Choice: We Don’t Stop
  2. RootsWeb: CAYOLO-L [CAYolo] Charles E. FRANTI (1933-2003) (obit.)
  3. Michael Franti & Spearhead - Gig Reviews - Music - Entertainment
  4. "Michael Franti: Barefoot Bodhisattva". College Crier. Retrieved May 5, 2008.
  5. Michael Franti and Spearhead. Michael Franti: Vocals / Guitar
  6. Pop Matters. Review. Greg M. Schwartz. Power to the Peaceful Festival
  7. http://www.michaelfranti.com
  8. YouTube - michael franti on veganism
  9. http://www.billboard.com/#/artist/michael-franti/chart-history/61927?f=305&g=Albums
  10. http://www.billboard.com/#/artist/michael-franti/chart-history/61927


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