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Barefoot Beats

Michael Franti suggests dancing barefoot at his concerts.


Photo by James Minchin

Oakland singer and poet Michael Franti took off his shoes 12 years ago, and except for the rare times he’s been asked to don flip-flops in airports or restaurants, he’s been shoeless ever since.

Showing solidarity with people who can’t afford shoes was the driving force behind his lack of footwear. But it’s the 46-year-old musician’s bumpy road from childhood (he’s Irish/French/German/African American/Seminole Indian by birth, and was raised by Finnish American adoptive parents in Oakland) to “bandhood” (he formed Spearhead in the mid-90s, then waited over 10 years for “Say Hey (I Love You),” his first top-20 hit) to manhood (a ruptured appendix nearly took his life, after he’d had two sons) that truly shaped him. His path of perseverance and success left him with a song of gratitude in his heart.

In other words, Franti used to be more radical, and now he’s mellowed. But not too much.

“I always felt like an outsider,” Franti says. “The journey in my musical career has been to create a sound that fits my voice musically, but the things that I’ve said in my songs have essentially been the same all along. We have one life to live, to better learn to relate to one another.”

Sharing the love has led to a new children’s picture book about recycling; Soulshine Retreat Center, a full-to-capacity yoga hotel in Bali; a new album to be released this fall; and the ambitious Do It for Love summer tour that includes a stop at the intimate Mountain Winery in Saratoga on August 3.

“Be sure to bring comfortable shoes to dance in because you’re gonna sweat at [our] concerts!” he promises.

Better yet, shuck the ducks, and go barefoot.

To buy concert tickets and to listen to Franti’s music, go to michaelfranti.com.


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