Bob Franke's plans to become a priest were altered by his decision to become a singer/songwriter. But, in the decades since, Franke's songs have continued to reflect his deep-rooted spiritual commitments. While his acoustic melodies and poetic lyricism are tied to the singer/songwriter tradition, his use of Biblical imagery and Christian sensitivity give his tunes their unique vision. His ability to address moral issues without sounding proselytizing or dogmatic has enabled his songs, including "The Great Storm Is Over," "For Real," "Thanksgiving Eve," and "Beggars to God," to be covered by a lengthy list of folk-rooted artists, including Claudia Schmidt, Tony Rice, Lui Collins, June Tabor, John McCutcheon, David Wilcox, Garnet Rogers, and Peter, Paul and Mary.
A native of Hamtramck, Michigan, a city geographically surrounded by Detroit, Franke acquired his first guitar at the age of 14. He started writing his own songs not long afterwards. While attending the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he earned a bachelor's degree in English literature, he became involved with the community's burgeoning folk community. In 1965, he became one of the first musicians to perform at the Ark coffeehouse. Moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1969 to attend Episcopal theological school, Franke frequently performed as a street singer in Boston Commons. Leaving the school in the early '70s, he continued to sharpen his skills as a performer. His 1976 debut album, Love Can't Be Bitter All the Time, was followed by a live recording, One Evening in Chicago, in 1983.
Franke became active with the Church of St. Andrew in Marblehead, Massachusetts. In addition to founding a folk music coffeehouse, Saturday Night in Marblehead, he composed several cantatas and numerous hymns for the church. Franke wrote a series of songs for an ODC Dance Company of San Francisco production of The Velveteen Rabbit in 1990. A songbook of Franke's compositions, The Songs of Bob Franke, was published by the Song Project two years later.
In 1996, the 30th anniversary of Franke's professional debut was celebrated by a concert at Harvard University's Sanders Theater with his songs interpreted by Tom Paxton, Noel Paul Stookey, Jack Hardy, Lui Collins, Geoff Bartley, and Lorraine & Bennett Hammond. Franke has remained active performing and recording during the 21st century; his albums during the 2000s have included The Desert Questions (2001) and The Other Evening in Chicago (2005). ~ Craig Harris