The singer shouted to the heavens, “My Lord, My Lord, My Lord, show me all the things I need to know.” The crowd called out in response, “My Lord, My Lord, My Lord, take me to the place I need go….” And although many hundreds testified that the spirit had moved them that night, this revival didn’t take place at a Gospel Church, during Sunday worship. No, it was a different kind of congregation. One of all origins, ages, abilities, colors, genders, sizes, shapes, religions, and creeds. It was the “Soul Rocker” community at a Michael Franti Concert on California’s Central Coast.

Some years later from the back of his tour bus, Michael Franti explains, “My Lord is a song of letting go to whatever is going to come next. There’s so many times in my life where I’ve gripped onto plans that I felt were going to bring me joy, or get me to the next place, or thought were the answer…. And then when I let go, and it was like, ‘Wow, I’ve just learned something about myself and about the world that’s fulfilling me in ways that I had never imagined.’ So that song is about keeping your mind, your heart, your imagination open to things that might not be what you originally set out to do.”

Yes I Will

Michael Franti was attending the University of San Francisco on a basketball scholarship when a teacher encouraged him to pay attention to the world around him. He bought a pawn-shop bass, and penned thought-provoking poems. In the late 80’s Michael formed the Bay Area band, The Beatnigs. They threw parties in abandoned warehouses and banged on African drums. Franti became half of the hip-hop duo The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Their Gil Scott Heron-esque single, “Television the Drug of a Nation” was an acclaimed underground hit but in the 90’s radio still ruled.

There was a corporate machine in place, that largely mandated who could play what, when. No one knew how to categorize Michael Franti. Was he a rapper, a rocker, a reggae singer?  Was he against the system, for the people? An anarchist, a peacekeeper….? Couldn’t yet tell. Being an anomaly is part of Michael Franti’s karmic condition. He explains, “My mom had three kids of her own with my adopted father, and then they adopted myself and another African American son. I have one sister who’s a lesbian, and one brother who’s a police officer. And I grew up in this really mixed melting pot of a household.”

A family

The Franti Family

Michael continues, “My mom always had a wisdom to her, that people should be their unique self. And she would always tell me, ‘Don’t try to be what other kids tell you to be, or to try to fit in, just be who you are, be your authentic self.’ And that’s something that I’ve really tried to carry in my music.”

Stay Human

Franti and some friends leaned into the musical lexicon that most influenced them. The result was Spearhead; a band so unique rock writers of the day had to come up with new words to describe them, “alternative hip hop”, “neo-soul,” “reggae fusion.” One of their debut songs was selected for MTV’s Buzz Bin and won a Clio Award.



A little like putting the medicine inside a spoonful of sugar, they wrapped socio-political messages inside sweet-sounding songs.  In the February, 1995, issue of URB Magazine, Michael clarified, “It wasn’t that I didn’t want to make statements anymore…. But when I was a kid, I got into the music first, and then later, after I’d listened to the songs for a while, I started hearing what the artists had to say. And that’s what I wanted to do.”

And I Sing, Power To The Peaceful

“I used to work in a hospital, and to make my shift, I’d have to leave at 4am,” Anita Akhavan states. “In the car I would blast a Spearhead song, the lyrics are, ‘We can bomb the world into pieces, but we can’t bomb it into peace.’ When I moved to San Francisco, Guerrilla Management was one of the first places I hit up to do volunteer work, because Michael has consistently been an artist who has used his platform to say something. He speaks to current issues, he does not shy away from them, but he also doesn’t shame people either. He facilitates dialogue.”

Anita became a member of Michael’s team and part of the production staff that put on the annual “911 Power To The Peaceful” Festival in San Francisco. The Franti-fronted gathering began in 1998 to bring awareness to the imprisonment of Mumia Abu Jamal. It was held on 9/11 each year to illuminate the death row inmate’s urgency. “September 11th, 2001 happened and everything changed” remembers Akhavan.

While many were directly impacted by the events of that day, millions more were relying on network news for information. Politicians and the reporters that covered them, repeated words like “terror,” and “mass destruction” subtly invoking Islamophobia, paranoia, and division. But in Dolores Park, people were coming together to talk about peace. “We already had it scheduled for that weekend” Akhavan explains.  “We opened it up to hundreds of social justice organizations from around the country to speak on issues that were taking place. And the intention of this was to be in community, sharing info, having conversations and learning.”

Michael Franti on stage

Revolution Never Comes With A Warning – Michael Franti Rocking PTTP c. PTTP FB

The potency of that inclusive act deeply affected those who were in attendance, as well as the 80,000 more who would join in the 11 years that followed. The festival moved to Golden Gate Park where no one was turned away for lack of funds. The largely volunteer staff coordinated yoga and movement, with social justice, environmental activists, and spiritual speakers, with an eclectic musical line-up that empowered a humanitarian movement.

Many years after the last PTTP Festival, Anita reflects, “Michael has always sang or spoken about what’s important I feel; and today I think his music reflects that we need to be kind to one another, we need to love one another, and be compassionate to one another, because we are all doing the best that we can with the tools that we have.”

Nobody Right, Nobody Wrong

“I went to Iraq in June of 2004, and it was 11 months after the war had started there,” Michael explains. “I played music on the street for Iraqi civilians in the daytime, and I played for U.S soldiers at night. And then after that, I went to Israel and Palestine, and I played for music for people on the street in both those places. I talked to soldiers, I talked to people who had lost family members in each of those conflicts.”

Franti continues, “I was passionately against war and I still am. But when I came back, I realized that I’m not on the side of Americans or Iraqis or Israelis or Palestinians; I’m on the side of the peacemakers. And I met people from all sides who were willing to go to incredible lengths to achieve peace, and to try to resolve conflict and bring about safety and understanding for as many people as possible.”

One of Michael’s first stops when he returned stateside was Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He visited with soldiers who were recovering from catastrophic combat injuries. The singer explains, “I was listening to their stories and understanding why they had made these decisions to go to Iraq. And I just developed this new understanding of it. And that’s when I started writing the song Nobody Right, Nobody Wrong.” The tune that many believe should be nominated for a Peace Prize invites the listener to let go of their fixed point of view, and recognize we’re all much more alike than not.

“One of the things that I learned on that trip was that there’s no one that you wouldn’t love if you knew their story. And to be able to understand people’s stories is what I feel is one of the most important things that is needed in the world right now. And the way that you have to do it is you have to step back from the judgment saying this person’s wrong, and I’m right and that’s what that song’s about.”


“Michael told me we were going to be doing this on a ship but I had no sense what that was going to be like until we actually showed up,” esteemed yoga teacher Seane Corn shares. “I remember walking out onto the main deck and there are massive canons attached to the boat pointing outward directly to where we would be playing and I would be teaching. The knowledge of where this boat has been, the impact it had on lives was visible to us. It was this real interesting juxtaposition between wanting to hold the space for unity, interdependence, and peace under the shadow of these weapons designed for the opposite.”

Seane Corn and Michael Franti

Worship Is Greater Then…

The USS North Carolina is the most decorated US Battleship of World War II. It participated in the Battles of Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and every major naval offense in the Pacific. It’s officially credited with 24 aircraft kills, the bombardment of nine Japanese strongholds, a merchantman vessel, and more. Some of its’ combat crew perished when it was struck by a torpedo. The Soulshine Tour held a sold-out yoga class with live music there. It was a first for all. As colorful yogis unrolled their mats onto the grey deck, a phrase entered Corn’s consciousness, “Worship is greater than Warship.” A mantra that powered her through the intense experience.

“It’s very easy for people to think about peace love truth and unity in the safety of their own yoga school.” Corn says. “They light the candles, they have the deities but it’s often devoid of the harsh realities of existence. So what the opportunity was that day was to hold both the shadow and light in peace there.” Between warrior poses, she asked the class, “When we say we want peace, what are willing to sacrifice?” Seane reflects, “It was complex for sure, but it was ultimately one of the most powerful yoga teaching experiences I ever had.”

Yogis on a battleship

Pray In Action Brett Mazurek / 3rdi

Seane pauses thoughtfully and continues, “Working with Michael, I always appreciate not just his artistry and his depth but his genuine commitment to raising awareness in a way that doesn’t alienate the myriad of beliefs that are out there. He is strong and he’s steady, he’s purposeful in his intention and masterful in capacity not just to hold space but to hold space for love. I have been blessed to bear witness to how skillfully he brings people together, in a way that is both provocative and uplifting and it’s a rare artist, I believe, who can do both and have everyone walking away feeling hopeful inspired and activated from within. And Michael is that kind of artist to me.”

Pray For Grace

“In the early 2000’s my brother was sent to Iraq as an infantryman to avoid a felony. I disagreed with that war so much.” Drew McManus, lead singer of Satsang, explains, “I absolutely loved Underground Hip Hop and message heavy punk rock, but I also exclusively played acoustic guitar. When I first heard Franti it kind of all clicked for me that I didn’t have to pick a genre.”

Drew escaped an abusive household, sold drugs to survive, and spent time in rehab. Soon after he had the opportunity to trek through Nepal where he received the message he was meant to dedicate himself to music. McManus pledged to help others who had experienced similar, but as anyone in the industry will tell you, the road to success can be a long, hard climb. Drew’s band Satsang played an open-air venue in Florida with an unusual set-up. The green rooms are on an upstairs balcony that overlook the stage.  There’s really no quiet, or privacy, but it can create some cosmic conditions.

A few months later the promoter for the venue asked if Satsang would like to open the upcoming Spearhead Show. Drew remembers, “I kinda freaked. I have been a Franti fan since about 2003. I thought, ‘We have to get to this show. Franti will watch our set and want to take us on the road.’ Drew did the math. Flights to Florida, plus gear, plus rental car would leave them $37 in profits divided by 3, but it was the chance of lifetime.

Michael did watch the Satsang set. Afterwards Drew said “If you want me to spit a verse on something I’m here for it” McManus remembers, The next day at sound check he had his engineer give me a mic. We did the collab the next 2 nights.”

Drew McManus and MIchael Franti on stage

Drew McManus and Michael Franti onstage c. Greyson Christian Plate

A few weeks later Drew got the call inviting Satsang to join Spearhead on the road for their summer dates. Drew reflects, “Seeing Michael’s rate of hustle, work, and output changed the way I approached my career for sure. I’m forever grateful to him for that boost and his council during that year. He continues to inspire me… the dude has been at it for decades and is still evolving as an artist and growing his audience. His stage presence and energy puts dudes half his age to shame! Him taking us on tour that year put so many eyes on us. There is absolutely no telling where we would be without his support. So grateful for Michael.”

Do It For The Love

“I first met Steve and Hope Dezember on Twitter” Michael mentions, “Hope started saying to me my husband has ALS and he’d really like to come to one of your shows as he may be dying soon.”

When Steve was first diagnosed he and Hope had only been dating for a few months. He told her, “I understand if you want to go away, but if you don’t will you marry me?” She immediately said yes. Not only did the loving couple endure, but Hope became Steve’s main caregiver.

Michael Franti, Steve and Hope Dance On Stage

Life Is Better with You Michael, Hope and Steve

Michael remembers, “The next day we met them and saw Steve in a wheelchair, he was almost completely paralyzed. He could barely speak in whispers but his positivity shined through so much. I invited them to watch the show from the side of the stage, and I introduced them as I was singing the song, ‘Life is better with you.’ And they both came on stage and at one point I look over and Steve whsipers to Hope, “I want to get up out of my chair.” And Hope lifted Steve up out of the chair and started to dance in front of 20,000 people and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.”

Hope Dezember shares, “It was such a moving moment to have Michael care about us so much, and then to have so many people receive us and care about us so much and it literally changed our lives.”

Overwhelmed by the emotional experience, Franti and his girlfriend ER nurse Sara Agah had an idea. What if they facilitated similar experience for others in need of a reprieve…? They created “Do It For The Love” a non-profit, wish-granting foundation that brings people with life threatening illnesses to have one on one experience with their favorite musical artist at a live concert. This year they are celebrating their tenth anniversary, having granted 3,5000 music-related wishes to an estimated 12,000 recipients.


The Craig Family with Michael Franti

And I Know One Thing, That I Love You – Michael with the Craig Family in Cape Cod

One of them was The Craig Family in Cape Cod. Mom Rebecca emotes, “My son Sawyer’s Do It For The Love wish was to meet Michael Franti. He had Sawyer sing, “Say Hey” on stage, and included our other son Jackson too. At that point Sawyer was about a year into his treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia. So many of our friends were there, who took video. It still brings me to tears every time I watch it. Michael gave me one of the best hugs I’ve ever received in my entire life. Our family believes that music heals and our evening with Michael filled us with love, hope, and positivity.”


Life Is Better With You

“You know how Michael introduces the song on stage?” Sara Agah Franti blushes, “He tells the story about how we had this amazing Valentine’s Day, on the beach, we went snorkeling at sunset, we had donuts on the boat, and it was so magical. And the next morning, we got into the biggest argument.”

The couple met at a music festival, became friends and after some years, it developed into something more. Much of their courtship was spent surrounded by the band and crew on tour buses. They took off to the other side of the world for some time alone, and Sara remembers, “We’re in Bali, and it’s supposed to be like the best day Valentine’s Day ever, and we’re sitting here processing for four hours,” She laughs, “We worked through it and he picked up his guitar and he started writing ‘Life is Better With You’, right there, it had come to him.”

Two People Bali

Some Days Are Better Than Other Day  c. Angga Vandi

“Life is Better With You” became a commercial success. It’s in rotation on the radio, has been streamed more than 19 million times on Spotify, and was even in a Blue Cross Blue Shield commercial (internet forums abuzz asking “What is that song? I love it”). In the decade since it’s been released, hundreds have approached Michael and Sara sharing their stories, “It was our wedding song!” “He proposed to me by playing that on the guitar!” “Our family sings it in the car, even our two-year-old can sound out the words!” Sara jokes, “And this was before we were even engaged!”

Yes, Michael played it for Sara at their wedding, and the song continues to have deep meaning, not only to the couple but to the thousands who sing it as an anthem of sorts. Sara laughs, “Michael always gets this great pass, because if we have an argument on tour, then he’ll just go on stage and play the song to me and I’m like, ‘Aaaahhhh fiiiine, I forgive you’.”

Never Too Late

“The funniest thing is Taj will be playing with blocks, and he’ll start singing, Vibe check one two, one two Michael’s newest song,” Sara says.

In 2018 the Frantis added an addition to their family, Taj who is now almost five years old. Sara observes,” There was another time recently he was playing with dinosaurs and Legos and was singing “I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive.’ I’m like how do you even know the words of these songs? It’s the sweetest thing to see where his interests lie.”

Michael and Sara Agah Franti

Just To Say I Love You; Michael and Sara Agah Franti

Michael’s oldest son Cappy is now 36, his middle son Ade is 24. “Yesterday, I had lunch with my mom, “Michael says,” I was showing her a video of my four-year-old Taj, and he was being really rambunctious my mom was like [he imitates her shaking her head] yes, just like you.”

Michael lets that sink in, and says, “Being a dad, I guess the main thing is knowing which things are really serious and which things aren’t. What are the things that you should be very concerned about, and what are the things you need to just be more patient or flexible about. So, I feel more happy than ever today because of having that wisdom. It makes it a lot more enjoyable to be around a toddler who is as crazy as I was at that age.”

We’ve Got Room For Everybody

“People had been contacting me saying Kenny Chesney is using your song, “Say Hey (I Love You)” as the walkout song for his band on tour.” Michael remembers, “At first, I was like, “Who is Kenny Chesney?’ ”

The country music superstar Kenny Chesney is known for singing about topics like tractors, beer, and his hometown. His largely Southern and patriotic audience orients to America in a way that’s probably different than the social justice organizations in Golden Gate Park. But if you listen to Kenny’s lyrics closely, you may discover there is a message of unity just underneath. Michael explains, “I got to meet him at a festival that we both played at, and we just really hit it off. We became friends right away, and although his music is known as being in the country music genre. I consider him to be a musician of optimism, as I am.”

Michael Franti and Kenny Chesney

We All Friends Here; Michael Franti and Kenny Chesney


To me, optimism is actually one of the highest forms of courage.


Michael continues, “To me, optimism isn’t just like you wake up and go today is going to be a great day, no bad vibes and I got this. Optimism is when you can wake up and go ‘You know what, I know today is going to be challenging, and every day in fact might be. And there’s going to be things along the way that come up. And I have the wisdom, the tenacity, the love, the joy, the appreciation, the gratitude that will get me through these challenging moments’.  And to me, optimism is actually one of the highest forms of courage, and not just being naive about the world. And that’s what I love about his music.”

The two had been friends for about seven years when Michael got a call. He retells, “Kenny’s like, ‘Let’s go do this tour.’ And the first show is supposed to be at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, 90,000 tickets were sold. And then we get this call, the first 30 days of the tour are going to be postponed due to this little thing called COVID. And I remember thinking ‘A whole month, the tour is not going to happen for a whole month?’ And then three years later, here we are. So yes, so it didn’t happen, but so many other things have happened.”

The Sound Of Sunshine

“Michael is adopted. I’m a child of refugee parents, our parents had to fight and survive,” Agah Franti states. Like most everyone, the Frantis many activities halted during the pandemic. No concerts, no nonprofit wishes, no in-person public speaking, and no guests at their Soulshine Bali Eco-Resort and Retreat.

Sara remembers, “One morning, it was in August of 2020, Michael woke up and he looked at me, he’s like ‘We’re not just going to survive the pandemic, we’re going to thrive and we’re going to fight. And so we committed as a couple to build.”

Soulshine Balie Aerial

Soulshine Bali c. Ary LeCir

Despite no bookings, the Frantis kept their staff on at the Soulshine Sound Retreat in Bali that they co-own. Agah Franti says, “ We just created this place where people can come and just be themselves, find the space to reconnect with themselves and  just have fun. We have an adult water slide, a jumping plank, three restaurants now, a spa. We put vinyl record players in the rooms.” The property features a walking path along the perimeter next to the river, and many native nooks for alone time. Vacationers and retreatants can enjoy cocktails and mocktails in the massive pool, practice yoga with some of their favorite teachers, and if desired, make new friends. Sara exclaims, “We love when people who don’t know each other can share experiences and make these connections.”

Franti Family in Bali

The Franti Family at Soulshine

Jennifer Carmel was recovering from her father’s passing, when she decided to do something different. She booked a SoulRocker Retreat lead by Gina Caputo to lift her spirits and try something new. “Soulshine is an absolutely magical spot. You can feel the energy immediately once you set foot inside the grounds” she states. The organic chef accredits the retreat with reconnecting her to her yoga practice, her breath, her body, her soul. We made friends for life on that trip.” Jenny exclaims, “We are all still connected, we have a group, and we plan trips and Michael Franti concerts together.”

Say Hey (I Love You)

“Michael Franti is one of the greatest performers on the planet!!” implores Native Wayne Jobson, lauded musicologist and DJ.  “His shows are transcendental. He is in the same league as Springsteen, Bono, Jagger, and Bob Marley. He becomes one with his audience who identify with him as a friend and brother rather than an untouchable celebrity. As a human, he is remains as humble as when I first met him 25 years ago.”

Over the last four decades Michael Franti and Spearhead have defied categorization. They have continued to evolve to meet the moment, inspiring millions of fans along the way In a film about his life Michael states, “The reason I started playing music is that I thought it could change the world…for decades I’ve traveled the world playing a mix of socially conscious, politically charged, rap, reggae and acoustic music I’ve played in night clubs and festivals and stadiums, and street corners. I’ve played for prisoners in Folsom and San Quentin, I’ve played in protests and in war zones. In 2004 I went to Iraq and played in the streets of Baghdad for US soldiers and for Iraqi civilians alike. I spent over 20 years on the road before I ever had a song in the top 20, and together with my band spearhead we’ve sold millions of records.”

Michael Franti, Spearhead and Audience

Big Big Love; Spearhead Summer Tour

Michael Franti states, “The very best part of what I do is I get to meet tons of people every single day. Who are trying to survive in an incredibly challenging world. It’s hard, it’s really, really hard sometimes just to get by. And to hold onto your humanity, your dignity your pride, your heart, your soul and to feel like you have a sense of purpose in this world.”

Take Me To The Place I Need To Go

It’s a sold out show at the Hollywood Bowl, Spearhead is on stage rocking the place. A spotlight follows Michael Franti into the audience. Fans scream in excitement, snap selfies, and sing along. Two vets in the front row give him the peace sign, as a “Do It For The Love” family watches from the side of the stage.

Backstage a group of friends are gathered; music industry execs, radio DJs, TV stars, and such. In line to talk to the troubadour are bold environmentalists, publishing mavens, yoga stars, and striving musicians. There are social justice activists he has helped empower along the way. Michael walks in barefoot, guitar still strapped to his chest. He sings the acoustic, acapella version. ““My Lord, My Lord, My Lord, show me all the things I need to know” the group sings back in repsonse, “My Lord, My Lord, My Lord, take me to the place I need go….”

Michael keeps singing,

“We all get the time we’re given
Mine ain’t over so I’ll keep on livin’
We all get the life we’re livin’
Mine ain’t over so I’ll keep on givin’
‘Til the day I die,
My Lord, My Lord, My Lord,
Take me to the place I need to go…”

See Michael Franti at Bhakti Fest This Weekend

Joshua Tree Lake & Campground
Sept. 15-17, 2023
2780 Sunfair Road, Joshua Tree, CA 92252
More info here.

Join Bhakti Fest Presents Krishna Das, Nina Rao and friends for “Bhakti in Bali” at Soulshine

November 11-18, 2023.
More info here 

Stay Informed & Inspired

Stay informed and inspired with the best of the week in Los Angeles, etc. and more ...

Stay informed & Inspired

Stay Informed & Inspired

Stay informed and inspired with the best of the week in Los Angeles, etc. and more ...

Stay informed & Inspired