The first time Michael Franti heard himself on the radio it might have been out of pity.

While in high school Franti recorded a cassette tape with his band called The Casualties. The singer and his bandmates would hang out at the local college radio station where he lived in California just begging the DJs to play one of their songs. “They hated us there,” Franti told “We were always pestering them.”

One day though, the station agreed to play one of their songs. “I think it was to get us to leave finally,” Franti explained. “They took our cassette and the DJ played it at 3:30 in the morning and I remember we ran outside because we were in the studio and we just wanted to hear it coming out through the speaker.”

Franti said it was thrilling to hear his song played over the airwaves that day and it was something that at that time he hoped would happen more often. Unfortunately, it would take nearly 25 years before that wish would come true.

Related: Michael Franti Blends EDM With Social Activism On New Album ‘All People’

“Through 95% of my career, we never depended on radio to really play our records,” Franti said of his career, which started in 1987 with his band The Beatnigs. “We felt lucky to have some college station play one of our songs or a little mom and pop radio station somewhere play one of our songs. We were thrilled.”

So in 2010 when “Say Hey (I Love You)” off his sixth album with his band Spearhead, All Rebel Rockers, made its way to No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart–his first song to ever crack the Top 20–Franti should have been over the moon. Instead he was in the hospital.

Read more about how Franti earned a hit single and lost an appendix in the process on


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