Billboard Music Awards

Michael Franti Finds 'Love' On The Radio

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Michael Franti performs during Green River Festival 2009 at Greenfield Community College on July 18, 2009 in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Several weeks ago as Michael Franti was notching his first Billboard Hot 100 single in a two-decade-plus career, he found himself in surgery with a ruptured appendix.

"The doctor is saying, 'It's a lot more serious than we expected but we'll do our best to get all the infection,' " Franti recalls from the New York set of Jimmy Fallon's late-night TV show. "And I'm thinking, 'Great, I have a hit song after all these years and I'll never hear it on the radio.' "

Thankfully, Franti survived. And he's not only hearing his feel-good anthem "Say Hey (I Love You)" on the radio, he's watching it climb several charts. This week the single moves 43-25 on the Hot 100, 16-14 on Adult Top 40 and 29-22 on Mainstream Top 40. Registering 54,000 downloads this week for a Nielsen SoundScan total of 417,000, the single jumps 28-17 on Hot Digital Songs. Its video numbers 1.3 million views on YouTube.

"Say Hey" -- a mix of dancehall reggae, folk and New Orleans zydeco -- appears on Michael Franti & Spearhead's current Anti- album, "All Rebel Rockers" (2008). In August, Universal Republic Records entered an agreement to promote and distribute the project after the song began taking off at triple A radio in the spring.

"[Anti- owner] Brett Gurewitz and his staff did a superior job in getting the song launched," Universal Republic president/CEO Monte Lipman says. "This strategic alliance just adds more people and resources to the mix. Michael is an exceptional artist and this song is my favorite kind of record: one you can't categorize other than using the word 'hit.' "

The single's success is a huge surprise for musician/activist Franti and Spearhead after 15 years of pioneering social humanitarianism through an intriguing fusion of genres, including hip-hop, funk, soul, reggae and folk. This time, though, Franti wanted to do something different.

"I've made political music my whole life," he says. "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."