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"There's all of this dimension to most people but the record business thrives off cartoons and caricatures." — Bono

With or Without You

(Note: this is a portion of a lengthy article about Kirk Franklin)
CCM magazine
The name Kirk Franklin elicits a host of varied images, depending on your perspective: Energetic frontman who stomps on stages with armies of singers and musicians; controversial character who makes wild, dance-filled music videos and rubs shoulders with the likes of Salt 'N' Pepa, Mary J. Blige, Usher, R. Kelly and other general market hip-hop and R&B artists; songwriter and arranger who's practically changed the face of gospel music.

But dig this, Franklin aficionados: How about Kirk Franklin, the U2 fan who's dreamed of singing with Bono ever since he first heard The Joshua Tree as a 16-year old?

Although the raspy-voiced band leader runs slightly roughshod over the Irish foursome's melody and lyrics, the excitement in his earnest Bono imitation is unmistakable: "I still...haven't found...what I'm lookin' for! The Johua Tree, man...it's spiritual music! With or without you...with or without you..."

It's therefore not too surprising that Franklin pushed to have Bono guest on "Lean on Me" -- a rousing ensemble ballad featuring the voices of Crystal Lewis, Blige, and Kelly -- from Franklin's latest album, The Nu Nation Project. (Franklin and his record labels -- Gospo Centric and Interscope -- donated $250,000 in September to help burned churches and synagogues in anticipation of profits from "Lean on Me.")

"I asked (Rattle and Hum producer and Interscope exec) Jimmy Iovine if I could sing with Bono, and he said yeah," Franklin explains. "I said, 'Are you serious? Can you hook me up?' So he called Bono, and Bono said he'd love to do it. Hearing the news was incredible!

"So I flew over to Ireland. I don't even remember what studio it was. I didn't sleep. But it was quick. I tracked him, and we shot some video footage. Then I left. And I was back home the next day for my daughter's birthday."

The whirlwind, one-day session was logged by Rolling Stone's "Random Notes" section and was a perspective-builder for Franklin, the rising star who got to share studio space with a rock 'n' roll legend.

"Bono's a nice guy, a very spiritual guy," he recalls. "I asked him how things were going, and he talked to me about the PopMart tour. He said one of the shows didn't turn out as big as they wanted it to, and I'm lookin' at him goin', 'You're kidding!' And then he mentioned something about Pop only selling 7 or 9 million units! I thought, 'Man!' "

At this stage in Franklin's career, a little perspective from the mega-successful likes of Bono can only help.

© CCM Magazine, 1998. All rights reserved.