Fresh off a hit song and rapidly becoming a household name, Michael Franti is making a television appearance in support of a cause he believes in. No, it's not ending the war in Iraq, or peace between Israel in Palestine. The ultra-political rocker is lending his talents to “The 11th annual Home For The Holidays,” a CBS special that will celebrate "The Joys of Adoption." Airing on Wednesday, Dec. 23 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT), it will also feature performances by Faith Hill, who is hosting the show, Mary J. Blige, Reba McEntire, Shakira and Carrie Underwood.
Franti, who is adopted, will tell his own personal story as well as perform - presumably his hit "Say Hey (I Love You)." The show is presented in association with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and dedicated to increasing the adoptions of the more than 129,000 waiting children in the United States foster care system.
While the show will clearly be targeted at middle-America, the issue actually strikes at the core of class and race issues facing the country and dear to Franti, as it's often children from economically challenged backgrounds who grow up in foster care without finding permanent homes.
So Franti, whose politics are far more radical than virtually any well-known musical performer out there, has found an avenue to reach millions around a non-controversial issue while still tackling social justice in a roundabout way.
Still, Franti's longtime fans are worried he's going mainstream. His website now features a statement - clearly in reaction to some outcry from the hard cores - insisting that opening for John Mayer this winter is not going to dilute the classic Michael Franti & Spearhead live experience.
Now I've read a few emails and tweets from some of you die-hards expressing concern that perhaps because we are performing in these larger venues the good old intimate days are over. Well, rest assured good people, that no matter where I'm playing - be it a festival in front of 70,000 people or in a bar in front of a dozen, my goal is to always create intimacy through music and connect with y'all through the most rawkin' show possible! We are working on a new album right now and you will be hearing many new jams on this tour so don't sleep.
Anyone who has seen Franti at a festival can attest he's one of the most instantly likable and memorable live performers on the circuit. There's no learning curve for a Franti show. He appeals from the first minute. There is no doubt he will wow the Mayer audience and probably take a further step toward widespread popularity.
A more interesting question is whether he'll become less political now that he has more fans and bigger headlining artists to please. If safe and non-controversial issues are suddenly the only causes he tackles, then it won't be the Michael Franti we've come to know. Anyone who's followed his career for the last 15 years naturally expects him to "make some noise."