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Michael Franks (musician)

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Michael Franks
Franks in 2019
Franks in 2019
Background information
Born (1944-09-18) September 18, 1944 (age 79)
La Jolla, California, U.S.
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • banjo
  • mandolin
Years active1973 – present
LabelsReprise/Warner Bros., Koch, Shanachie

Michael Franks (born September 18, 1944) is an American singer and songwriter, considered a leader of the quiet storm movement. He has recorded with a variety of well-known artists, such as Patti Austin, Art Garfunkel, Brenda Russell, Claus Ogerman, Joe Sample, and David Sanborn. His songs have been recorded by Gordon Haskell, Shirley Bassey, The Carpenters, Kurt Elling, Diana Krall, Patti LaBelle, Lyle Lovett, The Manhattan Transfer, Leo Sidran, Veronica Nunn, Carmen McRae, Ringo Starr and Natalie Cole.[1]


Franks grew up in southern California with his father Thurman, his mother Vera, and two younger sisters. Although no one in his family was a musician, his parents loved swing music, and his early influences included Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Johnny Mercer. At age 14 Franks bought his first guitar, a Japanese Marco Polo for $29.95 with six private lessons included; those lessons were the only music education that he received.

At University High in San Diego, Franks discovered the poetry of Theodore Roethke with his off-rhymes and hidden meter. In high school, he began singing folk-rock, accompanying himself on guitar. Studying English at UCLA, Michael discovered Dave Brubeck, Patti Page, Stan Getz, João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Miles Davis. He never studied music in college or later,[2] but earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA in comparative literature in 1966 and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Oregon in 1968. He had a teaching assistantship in a Ph.D. program in American literature at the University of Montreal before returning to teach part-time at UCLA.

During this time Franks started writing songs, starting with the antiwar musical Anthems in E-flat (1968) starring Mark Hamill. He also composed music for the films Cockfighter (1974), starring Warren Oates, and Zandy's Bride (1974), starring Liv Ullmann and Gene Hackman. Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee recorded three of his songs, including "White Boy Lost in the Blues" on their album Sonny & Brownie. Franks played guitar, banjo and mandolin on the album and joined them in touring. In 1973, he recorded an eponymous album, later reissued as Previously Unavailable, which included the minor hit "Can't Seem to Shake This Rock 'n Roll."

In 1976 Franks released his second album The Art of Tea, which saw Franks begin a long relationship with Warner Bros. Records. The Art of Tea featured Joe Sample, Larry Carlton, and Wilton Felder of the Crusaders and included the hit song "Popsicle Toes". His third album, Sleeping Gypsy (1977), which includes the song "The Lady Wants to Know", was partially recorded in Brazil. Around this time, percussionist Ray Armando gave Franks a cabasa, which became a signature instrument for him to play on stage when he was not playing guitar. Burchfield Nines (1978), which includes the song "When the Cookie Jar Is Empty," reflects his move to New York City and features more of an East Coast sound. Since then, Franks recorded more than 15 albums.

His best known works include "When I Give My Love to You," "Popsicle Toes," "Monkey See, Monkey Do," "Lotus Blossom," "Tiger in the Rain," "Rainy Night in Tokyo," and "Tell Me All About It." His biggest hit came in 1983 with "When Sly Calls (Don't Touch That Phone)" from the album Passionfruit. Radio hits include "Your Secret's Safe With Me" from 1985's Skin Dive, and "Island Life" from 1987's The Camera Never Lies.

Michael Franks also recorded his cover version of "Christmas Time Is Here" (the Christmas classic) with jazz pianist David Benoit released in 1996 on Benoit's Christmas album, Remembering Christmas.


Michael Franks discography
Studio albums18
Live albums1
Compilation albums5

Studio albums[edit]

Year Album[3] Label US 200 Aus (Kent Music Report)[4] US Jazz
1973 Michael Franks Brut
Reissued in 1983 on DRG as Previously Unavailable
- - -
1976 The Art of Tea Reprise/Warner Bros. 131 - -
1977 Sleeping Gypsy Warner Bros. 119 - -
1978 Burchfield Nines Warner Bros. 90 - -
1979 Tiger in the Rain Warner Bros. 68 65 -
1980 One Bad Habit Warner Bros. 83 76 -
1982 Objects of Desire Warner Bros. 45 95 -
1983 Passionfruit Warner Bros. 141 - 4
1985 Skin Dive Warner Bros. 137 - -
1987 The Camera Never Lies Warner Bros. 147 - 7
1990 Blue Pacific Reprise/Warner Bros. 121 - -
1993 Dragonfly Summer Warner Bros. - - 19
1995 Abandoned Garden Warner Bros. - - 4
1999 Barefoot on the Beach Windham Hill/BMG - - 9
2003 Watching the Snow Sleeping Gypsy/Rhino/Atlantic
Re-released in 2007 on Koch Records
- - 40
2006 Rendezvous in Rio Koch Records - - 11
2011 Time Together Shanachie - - 4
2018 The Music in My Head Shanachie - - -

Live albums[edit]

Year Album Label Aus (Kent Music Report)[4]
1980 Michael Franks with Crossfire Live Warner Bros. 92

Compilation albums[edit]

Year Album Label Jazz
1983 Best Collection 1975–1983 Warner Bros. -
1988 Indispensable Warner Bros. -
1998 The Best of Michael Franks: A Backward Glance Warner Bros. 23
2003 The Michael Franks Anthology: The Art of Love Warner Bros. -
2004 Love Songs Warner Bros. -
2012 Michael Franks: Original Album Series Rhino/Atlantic -
2012 The Dream 1973-2011 Warner Bros. -


1975 - Popsicle Toes (U.S. Pop #43, U.S. AC #45)
1977 - The Lady Wants to Know
1978 - When the Cookie Jar Is Empty
1979 - When It's Over
1980 - On My Way Home to You
1980 - One Bad Habit
1980 - Baseball
1982 - Jealousy
1982 - Love Duet (with Renee Diggs)
1982 - Comin' Home to You
1983 - Can't Seem to Shake This Rock 'n Roll
1985 - Your Secret's Safe with Me (U.S. AC #4, Canada AC #9)
1985 - When I Give My Love to You (with Brenda Russell)
1985 - Queen of the Underground
1985 - Michael Franks
1987 - Island Life
1987 - The Camera Never Lies
1987 - Doctor Sax / Face to Face
1990 - The Art of Love (U.S. R&B #59)
1990 - Speak to Me (U.S. R&B #73)
1991 - Practice Makes Perfect
1991 - Woman in the Waves
1992 - The Dream (with Yellowjackets)
1993 - Soulmate
1996 - Christmas Time Is Here (with David Benoit)
2003 - Christmas in Kyoto
2004 - Smash Up 1

Appears on[edit]

Year Album Artist Label
2006 Live Wires Yellowjackets GRP/Verve/Universal
2010 The Art of Michael Franks Veronica Nunn Dead Horse Records


  1. ^ Eder, Bruce. "Michael Franks Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  2. ^ Franks, Michael (July 2006). "Jazz Monthly Feature Interview: Michael Franks". Jazz Monthly (Interview). Interviewed by Baldwin "Smitty" Smith. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007.
  3. ^ Michael Franks | Billboard
  4. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 118. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.

External links[edit]