Michael Franti, harbinger of hope

In the wake of horrific violence, it is difficult to find appropriate words to respond.  Such an atrocity can’t be ignored, yet how does one verbalize a reaction to something so senseless and incomprehensible?

The citizens of Toronto suffered an unimaginable assault yesterday afternoon when a young man decided to drive a van onto a sidewalk full of pedestrians, killing 10 people and injuring 15 others.  My heart goes out to those friends and families who now have to go through a living hell of sudden, devastating loss.

Apart from a distant mourning and the offering of condolences, I would elicit the power of music to heal our heartbreak and to raise hope for a more peaceful, loving world that is free of such heinous acts.

It’s time to begin curating a list of songs with positive, life-affirming messages.

One of the artists I most admire is the epitome of up-beat positivity: Michael Franti. Does this man ever slide into despair? I suppose it’s possible given he’s only human. However, he seems to possess a special talent for hope along with his musicality.

So, to start such a positivity playlist, I suggest a couple of Mr. Franti’s tracks:

“Once a Day”


“The Sound of Sunshine”

“Hey World (Don’t give Up)”


Amy Winehouse (R.I.P)

I’m going to jump right back in here, although it’s been a while since I last wrote.  Since 2018 began, I’ve been exploring ska music fairly heavily, even writing an encyclopedia article about it for one of my MA classes at York University.  Of course, this exploration led me back to The Specials, a band I first encountered on my initial forays into ska and reggae while preparing to join the now defunct Idlers on a Canadian tour in 2011.

And this brings me to Amy Winehouse.  I had no idea she had performed with The Specials, first of all, nor any clue she had recorded an EP with them.  Just do a search for “Amy Winehouse ska ep” and you’ll easily find it.  The version I’ve listened to repeatedly of late is the one that features the album cover art work, including a cartoon drawing of Ms. Winehouse.  All the tracks are awesome.  I find myself frequently singing “Monkey Man” with the beloved vocalist’s inflections, as best I can manage.  And I absolutely adore her version of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid.”  The band is groovy as fuck.

All this interest led me to the documentary Amy, which I watched on Netflix this afternoon.  It is superbly well-done but sooooo tragic.  Seeing her body being brought out of her London apartment as a bystander off camera shouts “Rest in peace, Amy!” is heartbreaking.

I’ve always admired her as an artist but hadn’t taken the time to really examine her music, to really dig deep with her.  And now she’s gone, having left us with only two albums.  So, while I’m up to my eyeballs with research and school work, I’ll be taking some time here and then to really listen. And to bask in her soulful sounds.

I suggest you do the same.