Wheel of Life
"Stewart Francke is the the best songwriter I've heard in 20 years.' - Mick Taylor, legendary guitarist & former member of The Rolling Stones. "Thank God for Stewart Francke. Thank God for his feeling, healing music, for the sweetness of his soul, the sincerity of his songs, the strength of his vision. Motor City Serenade is enriching, nourishing music - music as faith, music as celebration, music whose source is clear and joyful love." - David Ritz, author of Ray, the Ray Charles Story and Divided Soul: The Marvin Gaye Story Motor City Serenade is the most important blue eyed soul record in a musical generation.... Standing courageously at the intersection of rock and soul music, influenced equally by Marvin Gaye and Brian Wilson, Stewart Francke possesses all the tools: A sweet voice, a vision that's grand without being grandiose and undying love of sound for it's own sake, and an equally passionate engagement with everyday life and the people who live it. This music isn't classic anything only because, like every real artist, Francke takes the world as he knows it and moves on his own course. " - Dave Marsh, America's most widely read music writer & Bruce Springsteen biographer. STEWART FRANCKE BIO With hard work, great songwriting and soulful singing, Stewart Francke has found success as an independent act in the rough & tumble music business. He's made ten highly praised cds, the most recent being Motor City Serenade, released in 2005 by the UK R&B label Zane. Much of the CD was recorded with the legendary Motown session band the Funk Brothers. He's licensed songs to TV (Melrose Place, MTV's Real World, various daytime shows), for image advertising (GM, Ford, National Cancer Association) and documentaries. Building his devoted audience nearly one person at a time, Stewart's now known as one of the most exciting live acts performing today, playing his own headlining shows as well as support touring with the likes of Sheryl Crow, Warren Zevon, Steve Earle, Chris Isaak, Robert Cray, Shawn Colvin, Hall & Oates, Michael McDonald, Stevie Winwood, Eddie Money, Chicago, & many others. His music has won numerous awards: nine Detroit music awards, Hour Detroit most popular musician 2002-2004, four straight ASCAP writer's awards-and a highly prestigious Point of Light Award for his work in cancer care. The Stewart Francke Leukemia Foundation was also presented the prestigious Partnership In Humanity Award by the Detroit Newspapers, and he was awarded a Creative Artist Grant by Artserve Michigan in 2003. A leukemia and bone marrow transplant survivor of 7 years, Francke often plays charity fundraisers or donates his time to cancer support and fund raising. To date the Stewart Francke Leukemia Foundation has raised more than $200,000, which has been given to organizations such as Karmanos Cancer Institute, the Children's Leukemia Foundation, The National Bone Marrow Transplant Link, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Gilda's Club. The priority mission of the foundation is to fund drives and increase marrow donation in minority communities Now performing exclusively with the renowned Detroit R&B/Soul band Regular Boys, Francke's show is exciting, smart, fun, full of history and loaded with a soulful vibe that makes any night pure magic. Prior to working full time as a songwriter and musician, Stewart was a Contributing Editor to Detroit's Metro Times, writing on subjects from the advent of Techno to the history of Detroit soul music. His work at the paper gave him the opportunity to interview many of his favorite musicians, from Sting to Johnny Cash to George Clinton. A book of his collected song lyrics and writing, titled Between The Ground & God: Lyrics, Essays and Interviews, 1990-2005, was published in 2005 by Ridgeway Press. Stewart and his family live in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. A Few Reviews Of Motor City Serenade : UK The Independent Review Stewart Francke **** (4 stars) Motor City Serenade, ZANE RECORDS 01 April 2005 Like Remy Shand, Stewart Francke is a blue-eyed soul boy who has steeped himself so thoroughly in the details of his chosen obsession - in his case, the classic soul sound of his hometown Detroit - that his best work could almost pass as authentic. It helps if you have access to Motown's old Funk Brothers studio crew, as Francke does on a couple of cuts here, notably the title track. But there's a generosity of spirit and articulate social conscience in operation that sit as well on his shoulders as they did on those of Marvin, Curtis and Stevie, particularly on the protest-soul numbers such as 'American Twilights' and the three-part suite that concludes the album, starting with 'From Where Shall Comfort Come': 'Let the four winds blow from the White House to the slum/ Good times are vanity when they're only good to some,' sings Francke. Apart from the Southside Johnny-style R&B of 'Upon Seeing Simone' and the melancholy 'Better Get to Know Your Broken Heart', the album marshalls the requisite clavinet, electric piano, organ, strings, horns and wah-wah guitar with consummate skill, building up a meticulous Motown repro sound best exemplified by 'Motor City Serenade' itself, which celebrates Detroit's multi-faceted musical heritage. By Andy Gill London Times, UK April 02, 2005 Soul Stewart Francke **** (4 stars) Motor City Serenade (Zane) This singer-songwriter from Detroit stands out from the crowd because of his soul-hardened voice and collection of thoughtful, user-friendly songs. His debt to his home town is revealed in the title track, which pays tribute to a raft of Motor City artists (see feature, page 18), including Marvin Gaye and Nolan Strong. And just to reinforce the feeling, he is backed on that track by Motown's original Funk Brothers, including Jack Ashford and Joe Hunter. Another Detroit legend, Mitch Ryder, also lends vocal support on the 13 numbers that vary from the deft late-night stylings of Deep Soul Kiss to the altogether more funky Prowlin'. An artist who has battled leukaemia, Francke has a cutting edge that has already made his name in his native Michigan. With luck, he could do the same over here. Playboy "Stewart Francke's Motor City Serenade is the most important blue-eyed soul record in a musical generation... The sound scape is based on his reading of Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, and Gamble/Huff records that defined the border between soul and funk, right down to the wah-wah guitars. The topic is our culture's most enduring: What happens when fear is steeped in racism. With help from the excellent gospel group Commissioned, Francke finds a voice that let's him ask the right questions... Motor City Serenade doesn't toy with amateur deep soul. Instead, it borrows quite explicitly from the soul of the early '70s: the perfect string confections of Barry White, the sophisticated horn, rhythm and vocal arrangements of Stevie Wonder and Maurice White. It's also explicit in attempting to recapture that music's social and political atmosphere. As Craig Werner writes in the liner notes, this music comes from a place 'where you catch glimpses of what the seventies might have become if we'd lived up to their long-forgotten promise.' Francke is not indulging nostalgia for a polyester past; he's using abandoned musical resources to make a statement about the world we live in right now. He casts his own challenge - 'All this wasting of time / when we should be writing our story / we're perfecting our lines... when we could be touching the glory.' He meets it, too. Funny thing is, Francke on his previous five albums made some of the blondest music I know. His apparent influences were the Beatles and Beach Boys, Springsteen and Bob Seger. His occasional work with the greatest of all blue-eyed soul man, Mitch Ryder seemed just a Detroit boy's way of honoring roots. Somehow there's nothing affected about what Francke does. Among his collaborators is the fine gospel-hip-hop group, Commissioned, and his ability to sing with them is startling. This album's best song, 'Skin To Skin,' is a duet with Barb Payton that takes us to the heart of the matter-race mixing, at all levels. Motor City Serenade itself is a metaphor for the missing cross-cultural dialogue, about pain and glory and how black and white people each experience them, that doesn't exist -- I'd say, the dialogue we lost. Except in these Ashcroft days, it's not real clear we ever had it. That's not fair though. We have had it. It animated the singing of the civil rights movement and, in a less conscious way, of early rock'n'roll. It thunders in the background of Righteous Brothers and Young Rascals records. It existed in the success of Jimi Hendrix, of Ryder, and of bands you've half-forgotten or never knew: Earth Wind and Fire, Mother's Finest, Living Colour. In a perverse way, it's part of the collaboration between Dr. Dre and Eminem right now. If you think that's off-the-wall, consider this: Stewart Francke's eyes snapped open on how to deal with race and music because he was dealing with cancer. A bone marrow transplant saved his life, so Francke established a foundation to offer help to others who needed transplants. What he learned was that African and Asian Americans have twice as much difficulty in finding a bone marrow match, because there are so few black people in the donor pool. So he began working with Detroit's African-American community to change that. From that, came an association with black musicians so intense that the blondest musician I know has now made this intensely soulful record. What Francke did is a long way from easy. You can't get to the place he reaches without paying a great price. Still, it's a lot cheaper than the one you pay for not going there." --- by Dave Marsh Detroit Free Press Review --May 29, 2005 Francke's full of Motown love, funk --Motor City Serenade. Zane Records The centerpiece of this committed collection of 13 tracks is the title song, a love letter to the hardworking, music-loving city that Stewart Francke so clearly adores. A virtual compendium of Detroit references -- think Stroh's, Mitch Ryder, 'the techno holy trio,' Stoney & Wojo, Soupy Sales -- 'Motor City Serenade' is built on a bass line and string arrangements that practically scream Hitsville, appropriate considering that members of Motown's fabled backing band, the Funk Brothers, played on the track. Actually, the entire album is almost bu rsting with Motown and other '70s R&B and soul cues, particularly the string and horn charts and Francke's voice, which has taken on a slightly raspier and earthier tone as he's aged. All this might be a surprise to those who remember the longtime musician's earlier material, which was in a more traditional pop-folk vein. But the transition that began with 2001's 'What We Talk Of ... When We Talk' and was roughly concurrent with a life-threatening bout with cancer feels complete -- and legitimate -- as Francke exhibits a wiser, sometimes weary, but ultimately heart-a-bursting persona. He's so obviously genuine about the material that he isn't afraid of engaging in a little foreplay with sentimentality, though he smartly stops short of going schmaltz all the way. Among the especially effective (and affecting) tracks are 'Skin to Skin,' which has a playful, tender sensuality; the pleading 'God I Need an Answer'; 'Upon Seeing Simone,' a humorous tale of a man who's sweating it when a certain someone shows up unexpectedly; and 'American Twilights,' which conjures the vibe of 'What's Going On'-era Marvin Gaye -- no easy trick and indicative of the skillful touch that Francke and his players bring throughout the disc. - By Steve Byrne, Free Press staff writer.