Poet, musician and political activist Michael Franti began his music career in 1986 as part of the industrial punk band The Beatnigs. In 1991 he teamed up with the band's dancer and percussionist Rono Tse to form the Hip-Hop duo Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, who had several minor hits in the UK. In 1994, Franti formed a new band called Spearhead with a few studio musicians, which blended hip hop with a variety of other styles including funk, jazz, reggae and rock. This radio friendly song is from their sixth studio album, All Rebel Rockers, and when it was released as a single in 2009, it became Franti's first ever American multi-format hit record.
Franti explained in a press release that this is "a song about life's journey." He added: "No matter where it takes us, no matter how hard it may seem to understand at times, there is one thing we know for sure… we love the people who are closest to us." Franti concluded: "People are smiling on this song because in these uncertain times people are connecting with what they value most, friends, family and togetherness. It's also got a hot beat and you can dance to it."
In our interview with Michael Franti
, he admitted to writing this song in Woody Harrelson's bathroom. "I wrote it on the steam in the glass in his shower," he said. "When I was done, I jumped out and the words were evaporating off the glass, so I quickly took a picture of it with my iPhone. Woody called me and he said,
'How's the songwriting going?' And I said, 'I think it's going great. I think I might have written a hit song in your bathroom.' And Woody said, 'Is it a Number 1 or a Number 2?'
This song features Jamaican Soul/Dancehall singer and actress Cherine Anderson. She first became familiar to Jamaican audiences for starring in two of the Caribbean island's most successful films, Dancehall Queen (1997) and One Love (2003). Anderson was named Best Actress in a feature by MTV2 for her role in the latter movie. In 2006 she collaborated with American reggae/dub DJ Chuck Fenda on the single, "Coming Over", which topped the Jamaican charts and remained on the Top 30 for 26 weeks. Her song "Good Love" appeared on Sly & Robbie's 2008 Grammy Award nominated album Anniversary and the same year Anderson was awarded Best Female Vocalist at the 2008 Caribbean Urban Music Awards.
Franti told Billboard magazine that after 15 years of pioneering social humanitarianism through his blend of musical styles, on this song he wanted to do something different. Said Franti: "I've made political music my whole life. But at the end of this project, I thought we needed a fun, singalong song given the serious things happening in the world. And while I can't wipe the smile off my face about the song's success, it's just another reminder for me to just make music for the love of it."
This was Franti's first song ever to crack the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. However, rather than celebrating his commercial breakthrough, the singer found himself in the hospital. "My appendix ruptured on tour and I came very close to dying," Franti told Radio.com
. "I was in the hospital and just going in to have this surgery when I get this text, 'Michael, your song is in the Top 20,' and I'm looking up at the doctor and saying, 'You better fix me, I want to hear my song on the radio!'"
San Francisco Giants fan Franti re-worked this song as "Say Hey (I Love You, Giants)," after his team won the 2010 World Series. The revised tune references pitcher Tim Lincecum, closer Brian Wilson and catcher Buster Posey, among others.
Franti wanted the Ras Kassa-directed music video to be filmed in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. First, the singer had to get permission from the local drug lord, who ended up providing him with two armed guards for protection during the shoot, which features locals dancing along with him in the streets.