On 20th September we lost a true gent, a talented and beautiful singer. Aged just 60 he was suddenly taken away from this world. Here are my fond memories of the legend, Billy Franks.
I first came across Billy in 2001 when his music was featured on my local radio station Bath FM. I remember hearing him and thinking 'wow he sounds great'. So I did a bit of searching online and managed to get in contact with him via email. Billy was so kind he sent me some of his cds to listen to and I discovered what a truly talented singer and song writer he was.
Billy and I kept in contact online regularly (thank God for the internet) and I decided to create a fan forum dedicated to him. At the time forums were the place to connect with people rather than Facebook and Twitter. It was really lovely to chat to his other fans and find out more about Billy. Way back in the 80s when I was still a young child Billy was in a group called The Faith Brothers. This was part of Billy's history that I knew nothing about and it was great to hear other fans and friends stories from back then. It also made me realise that I must be one of his youngest fans.
I continued listening to Billy's songs a lot over the years including trying to help spread the word about his talent especially around the World Cup 2010 when we tried to get his song 'The Beautiful Game' out there. Whilst Billy has always had a good loyal following he never seemed to get the recognition that he truly deserved for his music. He wasn't like the manufactured music that you hear so much of these days he had the talent where he could sit down and write his own music from scratch and his music is heartfelt and catchy. I have this annoying habit of singing out loud when out walking the dogs with Neil and quite often it would be Billy's songs and Neil would say "Whose song is that?" and I would reply "Billy Franks."
My personal favourite songs of his are 'Sleep A Little Easy When It Rains', 'I Wanna Be Your Country', 'All Mine' and 'Just' - I think I chose these songs from his album "Genius and Grace" because it was the first album he sent me so I have listened to it a lot.
I've done a little digging around YouTube and came across the first two videos that his dear friend Mick McCleery made with Billy and The Beautiful Game video which is introduced by Prince Harry. I thought I would share them with my readers, please have a listen:
'Sleep A Little Easy When It Rains' - Billy Franks
'Love Being Lost' - Billy Franks
'The Beautiful Game' - Billy Franks with introduction by Prince Harry
From what I read about Billy and have seen in videos of his gigs he was always a great story teller too. Sadly I never got to see Billy live or even meet him despite our online friendship of 15 years. It is my biggest regret.
Billy wasn't only a talented singer but he enjoyed acting too. When he was young he was in a film called 'Melody' starring alongside Mark Lester and Jack Wild. I went out and found a copy of the film which was really sweet about young love.
He also starred in films directed by his good friend Mick McCleery including 'Track 16' which was a thriller/murder mystery film with Billy playing the main character Paul Matthews. Billy also wrote the sound track for the film. Again some very catchy songs in the film including 'My Best Friend Stole My Girlfriend' and 'The Girl Of Your Dreams'. Mick kindly sent me a copy of the film which I really enjoyed.
And in 2008 his friends filmed a fantastic documentary called 'Tribute This' where they travelled all over the world trying to get famous singers (ie Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams etc) to perform a song on a tribute album for charity full of Billy's songs. Could they get these celebrities to sing on an unknown singers tribute album? you can find out in the video below. I thought the it was such a great idea and the adventures they had were awesome. I watched the documentary for the first time this week it made me laugh and it made me cry. The friendships that Billy had were so special.
I really recommend you watch the documentary which is now available on Youtube thanks to director, Mick McCleery. It's a true tribute to Billy. Here it is:
Billy was so kind and over the years did a lot of charity work too helping others in need. He was always willing to help where he could. He was an inspiration.
My letter to Billy
To Billy, you was one of a kind. A true gent. A kind, caring and considerate man who worked so hard. You was so talented and special. I may never have got to meet you in person but I considered you as a friend. You deserved so much more recognition. You never gave up on your dream and for that you will always be a huge inspiration to me. You made a lot of people happy. They always say the talented ones are taken from us too early and I truly believe that. You will be missed by everyone who was lucky enough to come across you. You will never be forgotten because your music will always be there for us. Sleep a little easy my friend. Rest in Peace xxx