Michael Franks is a smooth jazz singer and songwriter. He has recorded with a Who’s Who of artists, such as Patti Austin, Brenda Russell, Art Garfunkel, and David Sanborn. His songs have been recorded by The Manhattan Transfer, Patti Labelle, Carmen McRae, Diana Krall, and The Carpenters.
Michael Franks, born 18 September 1944 in La Jolla, California, grew up in southern California with his father Gerald, his mother Betty and two younger sisters. His parents loved swing music and his early influences included Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Johnny Mercer.
At 14 Michael bought his first guitar, a Japanese Marco Polo for $29.95 with six private lessons included – the only music education that he received. At University High in Irvine Michael 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, Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Miles Davis. He never studied music in college or later, earned an B.A. from UCLA in Comparative Literature, and a M.A. from the University of Oregon. (Go Ducks!)
He had a teaching assistantship in a Ph.D. program in American literature at the University of Montreal and taught part-time at UCLA. During this time he started writing a variety of songs including for the antiwar musical “Anthems in E-flat” starring Mark Hamill.
He was on records with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and recorded an eponymous album (later reissued as Previously Unavailable) before landing a contract with Warner Brothers Music in 1973. Since then, Franks has recorded more than 15 albums.
His best known works include “Popsicle Toes”, “Monkey See, Monkey Do”, “The Lady Wants to Know”, “When the Cookie Jar is Empty”, “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 the 1985 album Skin Dive, and “Island Life” from 1987’s The Camera Never Lies.