Michael Franti

Michael Franti

Whether you like his music or not, you must admit that Michael Franti had an interesting childhood. At birth, he was adopted by a Finnish-American couple who had three children of their own and two adopted African American sons. His biological parents chose this life for him because they were afraid their families would not accept him, his mother being of European decent and his father being African-American and Native American.

In his adult life, Franti searched out his birth parents but came to this conclusion. "When it's all over, it's the people who raised me who are my parents. They loved me and looked after me all those years," he told Mike Greenblatt in an interview for Right On! "So as I've gotten older, digested the information, thought about it, talked about it, written about it, I have an understanding about who I am as an individual and where I fit in with my feelings."

After high school, Franti secured a basketball scholarship to the University of San Francisco. He was six and a half feet tall and he loved the game, but music seemed to be taking up more and more of his time. He met a priest at school who encouraged him to put his story down on paper, and he soon was writing poetry. He bought a bass guitar at a pawn shop and quit the basketball team soon after, devoting his energy toward music and social issues.

He became part of a band called the Beatnigs, a band that threw underground parties in abandoned warehouses, combining African drums with poetry. They received some attention but eventually broke up. 

Franti emerged as one of the most provocative and eventually popular members of the swarming hip-hop community. He has reshaped his sound several times and is able to draw increasing crowds, who he then influences with his social awareness.

Earlier this year, Franti started touring a documentary he put together called “Stay Human.” It has won many awards on the festival circuit, exploring the connection between people living in different cultures and what it means to be human. The stories told within are reminders of each person’s influence over the world, at a time when most people feel disempowered. 

Franti has perfected a Rasta pop style that has gained him notoriety and popular radio play across the nation. He has played music in this valley at least 20 times, and I’m sure this Sunday at the Belly Up won’t be his last. Most music goers in this valley have seen him several times, whether on purpose or because of convenience.

The main thing about Franti is that he is family friendly and willing to do anything to bring young children out. Years ago, he played the baseball field in Snowmass for the Labor Day festival and pulled out a cover version of the Sesame Street theme song. The song was a hit among all of the audience members who were under the age of 10.

Franti became an icon for his friendly music and care-giving vibe. He is doing a lot right, and you can see him in action this Sunday at the Belly Up.


No matter how life is today, there’s just one thing John Zelazny has to say: “I can’t let another moment slip away.” He appreciates your comments at zelazny@aspendailynews.com.