"Stewart Francke makes beautiful music." -- Bruce Springsteen, 2006.
Stewart Francke began making music when he was 19,playing bass in a blues band that often backed Chuck Berry, Del Shannon and other early rock and R&B legends. He received a priceless and intense education in every facet of the music business under the tutelage of fabled Midwestern blues man and founding member of The Woolies, Boogie Bob Baldori.
Stewart didn’t make his first record, however, until 35, when his first child was born. In the meantime he played countless gigs in and around Michigan in rock and R&B bands and later wrote reviews and features about music and film for the Detroit Metro Times, eventually being named a Contributing Editor.
Since making that first record in 1995, Where The River Meets The Bay, (a record that illuminated his Michigan surroundings with dusty stories and simple melodies) he's made nine more, capped by the breakthrough blue eyed soul cd, Motor City Serenade, released in 2005 by London-based Zane Records.
"Standing courageously at the intersection of rock and soul music, influenced equally by Marvin Gaye and Brian Wilson, Stewart Francke possesses all the tools: A sweet voice, a vision that’s grand without being grandiose and undying love of sound for its own sake, and an equally passionate engagement with everyday life and the people who live it. This music isn’t classic anything only because, like every real artist, Francke takes the world as he knows it and moves on his own course." — Dave Marsh, America’s most widely read music writer.
A bit of a late bloomer, Stewart has found his voice and vision through hard work, expressive songwriting, and soulful singing that's often compared to the classic soul singers. In addition to the 10 cd releases, he’s licensed songs to TV (Melrose Place, MTV Real World, various daytime shows) and for use in image advertising (GM, Ford, National Cancer Association).
He’s built a reputation as a warm and exciting live performer, playing his own headlining shows as well as support with the likes of Sheryl Crow, Warren Zevon, Steve Earle, Chris Isaak, Robert Cray, Hall & Oates, Michael McDonald, Stevie Winwood, Eddie Money, Chicago, & many others.
"Stewart Francke is the best songwriter I’ve heard in 20 years." – Mick Taylor, legendary guitarist & former member of The Rolling Stones.
Other regional hits came. A duet with his friend Mitch Ryder ("Upon Seeing Simone" from the House of Lights CD) preceded other strong selling, independently released titles: Sunflower Soul Serenade, What We Talk of When We Talk, Swimming In Mercury, Wheel Of Life and Motor City Serenade.
In the midst of this success came the dark night of the soul. In 1998 Stewart was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. It was a serious interruption to an artist's career, but more importantly to a man, to a father and a husband. His kids were still very young. His wife held it together beautifully. His sister was found to be a perfect bone marrow match and he underwent a stem cell transplant in the fall of '98. Terrific doctors and nurses at Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit contributed to saving his life. He fought to stay alive; he fought hard. He got a lot of help. He went through 5 years of hell. He's still here.
After regaining enough strength to play some gigs, Stewart began writing and recording again. Nearly $150,000 has been raised by the Stewart Francke Leukemia Foundation and donated to groups such as Gilda's Club, the Children's Leukemia Foundation, Leukemia & Life Research and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. An endowment, the first of its kind anywhere, was established in Stewart's name at Karmanos Cancer institute to assist patients whose insurance would not cover the cost of a search for a compatible match, with the emphasis on helping minority patients and donors. The foundation held bone marrow donor drives, also with an emphasis on minority participation, which informed the public through education and awareness about the disease. Stewart actively continues these cancer activities today. In 2002 he was recognized as one of the Points of Light by the P.O.L Foundation and was named Volunteer of the Year by the National Marrow Donor Program.
He's been recognized by his peers in his community through numerous Detroit Music Awards, including Best Artist, Songwriter & Album. Hour Detroit readers voted him most popular musician 2002-2004. The Stewart Francke Leukemia Foundation was also presented the prestigious Partnership In Humanity Award by the Detroit Newspapers, and he was awarded a Creative Artist Grant by Artserve Michigan.
"Thank God for Stewart Francke. Thank God for his feeling, healing music, for the sweetness of his soul, the sincerity of his songs, the strength of his vision. His music is enriching, nourishing music – music as faith, music as celebration, music whose source is clear and joyful love." — David Ritz, author of Ray, the Ray Charles Story and Divided Soul: The Marvin Gaye Story
In September of 2003, Stewart came full circle with his musical loves and lifetime heroes. He recorded three songs with all six remaining Funk Brothers, the legendary group that cut all of the superb Motown hits in the 60s & 70s. A single from that session, titled "Motor CIty Serenade" was released in 2004, leading to his record deal with Peter Thompson and Zane Records.
After releasing "Between The Ground & God," a collection of his lyrics and writing in late 2005, he’s now working on a new record, blending the narrative songwriting with soul and funk arrangements. With more than thirty new songs written, Stewart hopes to record quickly and get new music out by early 2008.