Bob Franke (it rhymes with “Yankee”) is at the peak of his considerable craft; brimming with the wise and spiritually generous songs for which he is best known, along with wrenchingly convincing topical songs and sugared with the hilarious. His are the kind of songs that really do have the power to change the world by being taken into the lives of people. They come to you, these songs.
As Tom Paxton says, "It's his integrity. I always think of Bob as if Emerson and Thoreau had picked up acoustic guitars and gotten into songwriting. There's touches of Mark Twain and Buddy Holly in there, too."
Franke began his career as a singer-songwriter in 1965 while a student at the University of Michigan. He was one of the first people to perform at the now famous Ark Coffeehouse in Ann Arbor. Upon graduation in 1969 with an A.B. in English Literature, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has since made New England his home.
Bob's songs are considered classics, fueled by his deep faith and the real-life lessons taught him by his 30-odd years of playing everywhere from concert halls to street corners. Bob has appeared in concert at coffeehouses, colleges, festivals, bars, streets, homes and churches in 33 states, four Canadian provinces and England. His concerts have appeared in lists of the top five musical events of the year chosen by critics in the Boston and San Francisco Bay areas. In 1990, he was nominated as an Outstanding Folk Act by the Boston Music Awards.
Consider this list: Peter, Paul and Mary; David Wilcox; John McCutcheon; Sally Rogers; Lui Collins; Garnet Rogers; June Tabor. These well-known artists (and many more) all sing and record Bob's music. Seasoned veterans and novices alike are drawn to the complex, warm-hearted spirituality and captivatingly clear-cut melodies of Franke's songs.
When he isn't writing or touring, Bob leads workshops in songwriting at music festivals and music camps, workshops described by the participants as "transcendent." He was the Artistic Director of the Singer-Songwriter Project of 1999's Bethlehem Steel Festival. In August of 1990 Bob wrote a set of songs for a ballet of "The Velveteen Rabbit," commissioned by the ODC Dance Company of San Francisco. He has composed three cantatas and a number of hymns for the Church of St. Andrew in Marblehead, MA. The Songs of Bob Franke, a songbook produced by the the Folk Project, was released in 1992. He wrote a Harvest Cantata for the Marblehead Eco-Farm in 1996. The song "Hard Love" figures prominently in Ellen Wittlinger’s young adult novel of the same name (Simon & Schuster, 1999).
In addition, Bob has recorded a number of albums with much well-deserved critical acclaim (see Discography). Two of his songs appear in the top ten of WERS-FM (Boston) 1988 poll of all-time favorite folk songs. Brief Histories was named one of the ten best albums of 1989 by Boston Globe critic Scott Alarik and was nominated as an Outstanding Folk Album by the 1990 Boston Music Awards. In This Night was named #1 Acoustic Recording of 1991 by WUMB-FM (Boston) and was nominated as Outstanding Folk Album by the 1992 Boston Music Awards. His first Daring release, The Heart of the Flower, was named one of the Boston Globe's top ten folk albums of 1995. His latest , Long Roads, Short Visits was released in September of 1997, becoming one of WUMB-FM Boston’s top ten recordings of that year. The Desert Questions was released in 2001. His latest, The Other Evening in Chicago, was released in 2005. It is a double-length live CD with new and old songs spanning Bob's entire career.