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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, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Samba Blue (Single)

Comments

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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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sheimdal
Started listening to him when Passionfruit came out. Rainy Night in Tokyo got me hooked. Loved the entire album. Very chill, but the lyrics keep you smiling. Saw him live and wish he'd come back and perform again.
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Introduced to him in 1979 and started my love for smooth Jazz and my personal favorite along with Grover, Joe Sample, George Duke, Stevie, Luther, Anita, EWF and Randy Crawford
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The Undisputed King of Cocktail Pop Jazz, he started it all!
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Antonio's Song is a classic :)
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slthomas2494
Classy sound!!!
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His music makes you think of the islands, sitting on the beach, watching the waves go back and forth, sea gulls chatter filling the skies, you seemly have not a care in the world, that's how I feel whenever I listen to his music, freshing for the soul
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Totally unique!
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janicedustya b b y
He always seemed to understand the "Island Life". Mahalo frm HI
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1982--After his practice session for the gig that night, in my home town of Santa Barbara, Calif.,, I shook his hand & told him how very much he meant to my wife Mary Helen,my Comadre Irene Morales, & I, since the 70s at Univ.Cal.Riv e r s i d e . He was such a gracious & nice man.
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I love all of is ballads. My particular favorite is night moves
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seansets
LaTonya ... I could fall in love with a woman who loved Birchfield Nines.
I first heard Michael singing Popsicle Toes but really became a life long fan after listening to The Art of Tea. I have seen him once in Miami and had the good fortune to actually attend a 'meet & greet' at
Yoshis' the quintessenti a l jazz club. Michael is truly unique.
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I got turned on to Michael Franks in the 70's and I've been in love since I can listen to him all day. Love Michael Franks
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I first heard him when I was in high school in 1975 (Birchfield Nine album) & I've loved him every since! I try not to miss him when he comes to town. He literally soothes the savage beast in me ;-)
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One of the Original's of Cocktail Pop Jazz, Mr. Michael Franks.
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I have cassette tapes of his music....LOL
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Seen Franks a couple times in concert in the Bay Area. Love the way he dances with that shaker cucuracha in his hand. ;^)
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Awesome artist! His songs are poetry.... ..excellent music, and his words really paint a picture.
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I love you and your music, it is pure heaven. I hope that when I die, and hoping I go to heaven, that the almighty has your music there. I think more people should listen to your music, there wouldn't be so much meaness and killings. God bless you Michael Frank's.
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I got turned onto him in 1977 or 78. I bought my first copy of Sleeping Gypsy in vinyl. Over the years I bought several other copies of that album (and most of his others) in various formats. It is still one of my top 3 favorite albums of all time. Saw him live at Chateau San Michelle in 1993 or 94... He's the best!
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Thee BEST TO EVER DO IT
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I listened to him while doing my homework! Started at 10 years old!
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kerri5641
His music takes every stress I have away! He is a classic and truly talented artist
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Absolutely love him and his music. He's one of my all time favorites! Thank you MF for creating beautiful music :)
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famhouston5
daddylishous I have been singing underneath the apple tree as a bedtime song to my children since they were born. Michael is absolutely my favorite artist.
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Most most favorite artists, been listening to his music since I was 14, now I'm 46. Great artist. Seen him many time in concert.
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Amazing artist ~ have loved him for many years.
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Big fan of Michael Franks. Been listening to his unmistakable voice since the late 70's. My favorite artist!!
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vickif10
I have been singing Underneath the Apple Tree to my kids each summer since they were babies. They are both adults now and still love me to sing this song.
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my two best men are Michael Franks and Bobby Caldwell love them to death
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best voice in jazzfusion
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ronchilton20 1 0
began listening to franks in 1984 in collgege and he been with me and remain with me today for anyone who want the best in soft jazz he is the anwser
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Loved all his music from day one, especially Tiger in the Rain, but all his hits as well. He is UNIQUE. Wish he had more to give, I am greedy.
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jmp734
One of my favorite artist! His music and lyrics are timeless. Keep on singing!
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Michael has had me since I heard my first track @ 14, I love him. Ive seen him about 5 times live and its always better than the recording. I love the beautiful music he creates its all timeless.
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True musician! Love him .
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This has got to be one of his BEST ...very nice!
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I will forever appreciate the music of Michael Franks
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kaywielgosh
Love this guy! What, Quaaludes, why?
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He always sounded like he was on quaaludes
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swfinn
Love him!
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Perfect music for romance!
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smooth
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Been listening to Franks siince highscool Mr. Smoothcoolla i d b a c k c a t !
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This cat is too dam COOL!!!
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I also have been a fan of his since the '70s. He always seems to blow me away with his lyrics especially. I believe I own every thing he has put out.
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