Fun with Franti & Fatdog

February 13th, 2006

Tonight's show (at 7:30; repeated on Friday night at 10:30) combines two of my passions: music and politics. But where my interest in those subjects has mostly been expressed from the sidelines, Michael Franti, my in-studio guest, has put himself front and center. ... Well, maybe front and left. ... But even though Franti's politics -- and many of the lyrics to the infectious, joyful songs he performs with his group, Spearhead -- are decidedly progressive in their orientation, the spirit is always one of bringing everybody together.

A powerful record of Franti's heartfelt quest for integration and resolution can be found in his documentary, I Know I'm Not Alone, which chronicles the musician's singular peace mission to the Middle East -- armed only with an acoustic guitar. It's an amazing movie. The scene that stays with me the most is one where Franti sings an antiwar song in a bar filled with AK-toting American soldiers -- talk about a tough room!

Michael FrantiFranti brought his guitar to our interview as well, and gave the first performance of a song so new he had to squint at the handwritten lyrics as he sang. Man, that was cool! ...

Also in this episode: a visit I made to Subway Guitars of Berkeley, where I got a chance to ask Fatdog -- the store's legendary owner -- what it was like to employ a young Franti years ago. Plus I got to play a bunch of incredible guitars, albeit incredibly badly. ...

Entry Filed under: tv episodes


  • 1. Edgar B. Martinez  |  February 13th, 2006 at 10:49 pm

    Thank you Josh. I feel positivity of Michael Franti while I was watching this episode. Franti’s world is refreshing and positive, I can’t wait for this film. Michael Franti proves art forms such as music and film is the few medium that can side of conflicts, which is missing in other forms of media. Josh, you’re correct about Franti being better represent of American music then Britney Spears for both the Iraqi people and military personnel. Lastly Josh, you’re guitar playing needs improvement but great art is made by diversty.

  • 2. Julie Bernstein  |  February 14th, 2006 at 12:42 am

    Enjoyed the show! Franti rocks – saw him at a peace celebration in Golden Gate Park a couple of years ago. I loved the new song he performed on your show – big score for you.

    I used to live just a few blocks from Subway Guitars in Berkeley – thanks for highlighting places we may otherwise miss. It was fun to see you jamming, though you might want a few more lessons before giving up the oboe ;-)

  • 3. Robert Schloss  |  February 14th, 2006 at 9:56 am

    That last song he played “lies lies lies…sweet little lies” was incredibly beautiful. I cannot find that it is available anywhere. If anyone knows otherwise, can you please advise? thanks.

  • 4. Jim Vanhoeck  |  February 14th, 2006 at 10:19 am

    We loved the Franti/ Subway show. Thank you for bringing a little bit of reality to the TV! I currently live in Franti’s old apt at Subway, I think we met during the shoot. It was so much fun to see you and Fat Dog and T and Franti . Keep up the good work Josh! – Jimbo

  • 5. Malcolm Wood  |  February 17th, 2006 at 4:12 pm

    That was a great show. We should see Franti on more TV as opposed to american idiot, I mean Idol. Check out his early stuff with the Disposable Heroes of Hipocracy and the Beatnigs. They may be kind of hard to get. I look forward to the interview with Penelope Houston of the Avengers and Dirk. Old punks don’t die, they just get jobs and use email. Rock on! You are doing a great job.

  • 6. John Rigney  |  February 18th, 2006 at 12:16 am

    I enjoyed your show with Michael Franti. Recently saw him at the Fillmore, he’s great.
    On your website blog about the artist, a point of technical accuracy, if I may:
    “AK-toting Americans Soldiers”? Not quite. The battle rifles that American Troops are issued are variants of the M-16 (like the one some soldier is seen field-stripping & cleaning in the background in Michael’s documentary). Your mistake is understandable, since there have been about 10 times as many Kalishnikovs as M-16s made in the world. But they’ve never been issued to United States forces.
    Keep up the good work—JR

  • 7. Bruce Engelhardt  |  February 20th, 2006 at 12:56 am

    I enjoyed your Michael Franti/Subway Guitars show but was surprised that you didn’t recognize the guy in the guitar shop with the grayish beard and mischevious smile who was wearing a black hat and black leather jacket . He was popular blues singer/guitarist and ethnomusicologist Taj Mahal who is now a Berkeley resident and well worth an interview in his own right.

  • 8. Gary Marker  |  February 20th, 2006 at 1:23 am


    I was also surprised you were sitting there with music great Taj Mahal and didn’t even bother to recognize his existence–or introduce him. Or was that Mahal’s choice? (“No, man–don’t make big thing about it. The segment is about Subway Guitars, not me.”) Or, was it some kind of in-joke, similar to film cameos where a very famous actor casually wanders through a scene and is never acknowledged.

    And I agree with Mr. Engelhardt that Taj Mahal would be a good interview, if you can get him into a relaxed, unpressured situation.

  • 9. Josh Kornbluth  |  February 20th, 2006 at 4:26 pm

    Bruce & Gary: I need to be careful how I phrase this. Here goes … Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that the great Taj Mahal — a musical hero of mine — was, indeed, present at Subway Guitars when we taped our little segment. And let’s also say that we were told, in no uncertain terms, to refer to this gentleman only as “The Maestro.” Well, then, that’s what we would do! … Whoever he was, I did ask him to grace us with a few instrumentals on a selection of the store’s guitars, and he very kindly did so. … That’s all I can say on this point — except to agree that it would be wonderful to have Taj Mahal as a guest on my show sometime! …

    John: Thank you for your gentle correction of my misidentification of the M-16’s the soldiers were toting. I think I’ve been unduly influenced by the Ice Cube lyrics “Today I didn’t even have to use my A.K. / I got to say it was a good day.” …

    Malcolm: Thanks for the recommendations of Franti’s earlier groups, and for your hopeful words about us old punks. …

    Jimbo: Thank you for your kind words! As I think you could tell, we had a blast at Subway. …

    Robert: I totally agree with you about that lovely song! I believe that was his first live performance of it, so I’d imagine it’s not yet available as a recording. But you may find info at …

    Julie: Thanks — as always — for your feedback! And yes, as rusty as my oboe-playing is, I agree with you that my guitar-playing is even more woeful. …

    And Edgar: You really put your finger on Franti’s essential quality when you point to his positivity. The world needs more Michael Frantis! (Though probably not more guitarists, if I’m a representative sample.) …

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