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Michael Franks

Michael Franks occupied a uniquely popular niche in the world of soft jazz and pop music in the 1970s; he was one of those crossover artists who defied easy category on the radio (which made him ideal for FM radio of the period), and found an audience mostly among college students. He was born in La Jolla, CA in 1944, the son of Gerald and Betty Franks. His parents weren't musicians, but they were music lovers and he was soon immersed in swing music and vocal jazz and pop. Franks' early idols included such jazz-c*m-pop legends as Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee, as well as composers and lyricists such as Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Johnny Mercer. His first instrument was the guitar, and he got the only formal instruction of his life -- a total of six private lessons that came with his first instrument -- at age 14.

He was drawn to poetry as a high school student, especially the work of Theodore Roethke,, and began singing and playing folk-rock during this period. Franks majored in English and then Comparative Literature at UCLA and also embraced the music of Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz, João Gilberto, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, among others. He never studied music in college, however, and seemed on track toward teaching American literature as the '60s drew to a close. It was during this period that he started writing songs, which led him to compose an anti-war musical entitled Anthems in E-flat, a piece that found life as a workshop production starring a young Mark Hammill. He also began to get some film work, including music for Monte Hellman's Cockfighter and Jan Troell's Zandy's Bride (both 1974), the latter starring Liv Ullmann and Gene Hackman. He also saw some success as a songwriter courtesy of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, who recorded three of his songs, "White Boy Lost in the Blues," "Jesus Gonna Make in Alright," and "You Bring Out the Boogie in Me," on their A&M Records album Sonny & Brownie (1973). Franks also played guitar, banjo, and mandolin on that album and the accompanying tour. That same year, he recorded his self-titled debut album for the short-lived Brut label (founded and owned by the men's cologne company).

It was three years before his next album, The Art of Tea, appeared. The latter, which featured the work of top jazz session players Larry Carlton, Joe Sample, and Wilton Felder, was his first serious commercial and critical success, its sales driven by the presence of the hit single "Popsicle Toes." It also established Franks' sound, with its smooth jazz textures and crossover pop appeal. He enjoyed a string of successes over the next few years, including the hit "The Lady Wants to Know" (on Sleeping Gypsy), "When I Give My Love to You," "Monkey See, Monkey Do," "Rainy Night In Tokyo," and "Tell Me All About It." His music also evolved over this period, embraced Latin (especially Brazilian) influences and, later, adopted a New York jazz sound in tandem with his move to the east coast, and he collaborated with more major players, including Ron Carter, David Sanborn, the Crusaders, Toots Thielemans, and Eric Gale. Meanwhile, he also became prominent as a songwriter, his material covered by the Manhattan Transfer, the Carpenters, Patti LaBelle, and Carmen McCrae, among others, while his own albums began featuring prominent guest vocalists, among them Bonnie Raitt, Flora Purim, and Kenny Rankin.

Franks reached his commercial peak with the album Passionfruit (1983) and the accompanying hit "When Sly Call (Don't Touch That Phone)." His later records showed a slackening of focus and a fall-off in both his appeal and sales, although 1990's Blue Pacific marked a comeback, after a three-year lay-off. He continued to mine his fascination with Brazilian music into the '90s, including one album, Abandoned Garden (1995), dedicated to the memory of Antonio Carlos Jobim, and cut a duet with his longtime idol Peggy Lee, near the end of the latter's career, on "You Were Meant for Me" from the album Dragonfly Summer (1993). He was still active in the 21st century, and in 2010, was even the subject of a tribute album, The Art of Michael Franks, by Veronica Nunn. He released Time Together on Shanachie in 2011. ~ Bruce Eder
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Time Together

1. Now That The Summer's Here

2. One Day In St. Tropez

3. Summer In New York

4. Mice

5. Charlie Chan In Egypt

6. I'd Rather Be Happy Than Right

7. Time Together

8. Samba Blue

9. My Heart Said Wow

10. If I Could Make September Stay

11. Feathers From An Angel's Wing

x

Track List: Rendezvous In Rio

1. Under The Sun

2. Rendezvous In Rio

3. The Cool School

4. Samba Do Soho

5. The Critics Are Never Kind

6. Scatsville

7. The Chemistry Of Love

8. Hearing 'Take Five'

9. The Question Is Why

10. Songbirds

x

Track List: The Micheal Franks Anthology : The Art Of Love

Disc 1

1. Eggplant

2. Popsicle Toes

3. The Lady Wants To Know

4. B'wana - He No Home

5. Antonio's Song (The Rainbow)

6. When The Cookie Jar Is Empty

7. Meet Me In The Deerpark

8. Living On The Inside

9. Sanpaku

10. Tiger In The Rain

11. When It's Over

12. On My Way Home To You

13. Inside You

14. Lotus Blossom

Disc 2

1. Tahitian Moon

2. Flirtation

3. When Sly Calls (Don't Touch That Phone)

4. Rainy Night In Tokyo

6. Your Secret's Safe With Me

7. When I Give My Love To You

8. Read My Lips

9. Innuendo

11. The Art Of Love

13. Monk's New Tune

14. Somehow Our Love Survives

15. Mr. Smooth

x

Track List: Barefoot On The Beach

1. Barefoot On The Beach

2. Heart Like An Open Book

3. Now Love Has No End

4. The Fountain Of Youth

5. When You Smiled At Me

6. Double Talk

7. Every Time She Whispers

8. Why Spring Ain't Here

9. A Walk In The Rain

10. Mr. Smooth

11. Like Moon Behind A Cloud

x

Track List: The Best Of Michael Franks

1. Popsicle Toes

2. Eggplant

3. The Lady Wants To Know

5. When The Cookie Jar Is Empty

6. Tiger In The Rain

7. Baseball

8. Love Duet

10. Your Secret's Safe With Me

11. When I Give My Love To You

12. Island Life

13. The Art Of Love

15. Hourglass

x

Track List: Blue Pacific

1. The Art Of Love

2. Woman In The Waves

3. All I Need

4. Long Slow Distance

5. Vincent's Ear

6. Speak To Me

7. On The Inside

8. Chez Nous

9. Blue Pacific

10. Crayon Sun (Safe At Home)

x

Track List: The Camera Never Lies

1. Face To Face

2. I Surrender

3. The Camera Never Lies

4. Lip Service

5. When I Think Of Us

6. Island Life

7. Now You're In My Dreams

8. Doctor Sax

9. Innuendo

x

Track List: Previously Unavailable

1. Can't Seem To Shake This Rock 'n' Roll

2. Just Like Key Largo

3. When Blackbirds Fly

4. Lovesick Lizzie

5. Life's Little Highway

6. King Of Oklahoma

7. Dobro Ladies

8. Three Today

9. Little Sparrow

10. Born With The Moon In Virgo

x

Track List: One Bad Habit

1. Baseball

2. Inside You

3. All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go

4. Lotus Blossom

5. On My Way Home To You

6. One Bad Habit

7. Loving You More And More

8. Still Life

9. He Tells Himself He's Happy

x

Track List: Tiger In The Rain

1. Sanpaku

2. When It's Over

3. Living On The Inside

4. Hideaway

5. Jardin Botanico

6. Underneath The Apple Tree

7. Tiger In The Rain

8. Satisfaction Guaranteed

9. Lifeline

x

Track List: Burchfield Nines

1. When The Cookie Jar Is Empty

2. A Robinsong

3. Wrestle A Live Nude Girl

4. Burchfield Nines

5. Meet Me In The Deerpark

6. Dear Little Nightingale

7. In Search Of The Perfect Shampoo

8. Vivaldi's Song

x

Track List: Sleeping Gypsy

1. The Lady Wants To Know

2. I Really Hope It's You

3. In The Eye Of The Storm

4. B'wana-He No Home

5. Don't Be Blue

6. Antonio's Song (The Rainbow)

7. Chain Reaction

8. Down In Brazil

x

Track List: The Art Of Tea

1. Nightmoves

2. Eggplant

3. Monkey See-Monkey Do (feat. David Sanborn)

4. St. Elmo's Fire

5. I Don't Know Why I'm So Happy I'm Sad

6. Jive (feat. Michael Brecker)

7. Popsicle Toes

8. Sometimes I Just Forget To Smile

9. Mr. Blue (feat. David Sanborn)

x

Track List: Samba Blue (Single)

Comments

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The man is so talented, his music makes you feel good!
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janetokeefe1
Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous.
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Love this Brother's music.
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Thankyou Mr. Frank's i was introduced to your music by my cousin as a junior in high school I'm now 49yrs old still love listening to you. You're my favorite jazz artist only been to one of your concerts in Longbeach, can early 2000'S.
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Put on the apron, get the stove on and grab your partner and get cookin'. TY Michael Franks.
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Love to hear Michael Franks
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I NEVER TIRE OF HEARING HIS VOICE. HIS MUSIC IS SOOTHING.
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WOW ! I THANK YOU KINDLY SIR, I MET YOUR MUSIC IN 1983 AS A COLLEGE FRESHMAN. I AM NOW 51YRS OLD. AND I AM STILL MEETING YOU.
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Michael franks is a musical stress reliever and then some.
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I have so have so much peace in your songs, thanks a million.
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Mr Franks, thank you for this tune!
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In the process of time...
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We love you Mr. Franks...kee p it movin...
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Fearless formed for our grace to live holy appointed time
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OH Mr Franks...... . . y o u will always be my go to guy, your music stays current as the time goes by.....cant tell you what memories you have helped to create and help to materialize with the sound of your voice.
Days gone by and Days to Come........ . m y favorite
Report as inappropriate
saleshenry
Remember to check in on Michael Frank's website, he still sounds great on tour. Saw him recently on tour with Herb Alpert. Great show. The lyrics on Art of Tea still amaze me to this day. I can remember all the laughs playing Popsicle Toes with my girlfriend. Thanks Mr. Franks for all the good memories.
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mmuha10007
I was introduced to his music in college and I have followed him ever since. Great music
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I have enjoyed his music for a long time very smooth
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great music
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Never stop keep up the great work
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,He got me thru many lonely days in the hospital. Mellow, yet warm.
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I just your work period.
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I got hook on Micheal Franks In Germany 1984. Being A Very Young Man And Still Is A Big Micheal Franks Fan
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chipr96
I got thru broken hearts in college, laying on hot summer beaches, and settin' the mood on cold winter nights with Michael Franks...sti l l my go -to guy! :-)
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I wanted to marry Michael Franks when I was in grad school....co o l mellow music.
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, my favorite song by you is when sly calls!
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Got hooked on MF in college in 85, been a fan ever since. His last concert in Detroit was the bomb, sounds just like the record, love him!
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My woman still has popsicle toes.
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Loved Michael Franks since Sleeping Gypsy.
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cumminsmiata
Two months to live cancer
I'm going to let micheals be my last songs.
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Mike got to me, Manuel Wellons; at age 16. At 53 he is still one to reckon with. The man is BAD!!! Det. MI.
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I hope the rush will never end, the sky will never fall......
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Did you ever find the perfect fruit? As soon as it touched your lips you knew you would want to taste that taste forever. Did you meet your perfect match? Every time you see them your skin tingles; they are crack to you. MF is that fruit, that crack to me. Once The Art of Tea was on my turntable I didn't take it off until I got another. I wore the grooves off of that record. I know every word to every song on every record. His music hits that feel good spot in me that no one else can.
Report as inappropriate
That is one terrible bio. MF is a genius, a poet extraordinai r e , an amazing talent. His later records are as amazing as the earlier, and only REAL MF fans can appreciate his entire catalog.
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That's what you call a cold blow but that's how it go
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Special thank-you's to Mr. Franks for so many truly great songs over the years...reme m b e r many evenings just sitting & relaxing at the Tiki Beach Restaurant/B a r taking in tranquility and letting daily stress go. Thank-you and many blessings to you.
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Thank u for all the great music
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Smoothly Easily Franks sound is great for any occasion alone,1on1,m i n g l i n g in the crowd
Eternally im a "SOULMATE" lover
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janicedustya b b y
Poetry put to music...
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A ex girlfriend introduced me to Michael's Passion Fruit album in 1978, we were in love at the time and I was hooked on Michael's music from that point on. Thank you for all the beautiful lyric's and music Michael.
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TIMELESS!!! HIS VOICE IS SO SOOTHING & MELLOW.
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moxy2011
I first heard MF when I was in my 20's, introduced to me by an older friend who I soon came to realize i was in love with; never materialized the way I had hoped, but that's ok!. Here we are today and his music has the same affect now as then; an artful adaptation of romance, love and letting go. I live in Las Vegas and will watch for when he come to town to reminisce. Thanks Michael.
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A girl friend in college introduced me to Micheal Franks in the late 80's. Every time I listen to your music it puts a smile on my face that wife doesn't understand. Micheal, thanks for the music, Lisa thanks for the memories.
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The influence of Antonio Jobim is so apparent in his music. I love all of it!
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The man has a unique style, the best!
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love you michael franks with my popsicle toes looking for a playing gig in the subs of chicago?
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Now I know where the 80's commercial jingle for the Rio De Janeiro travel board came from ! A total copy!
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Takes me back to some of my best days! Love me some MF!
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days of popsicle toes, se fl...good sunday mornings 1987 -> need me my beans... n'franks..
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I met you outside the Greek theatre in '1993' in LA, CA. l threw my hands up and yelled your name. Then we shook hands. I continue to listen to all of your albums. VERY IMPRESSED.
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