Saturday, 24 September 2016

Billy Franks RIP

2016 has been a year when so many well know faces have been taken from us. For me it was particularly sad to learn of the passing of the wonderful Billy Franks a few months back. Billy was a lovely man, a hugely underestimated songwriter and musician. I saw Billy's band The Faith Brothers support The Alarm back in the 1980s and they were without doubt the best support band I ever saw. Much more than that they became one of my favourite bands and it was always a mystery how commercial chart success just eluded them. I was reacquainted with Billy's music through the joys of social media and the internet. It was over the last 15 years or so that I got to know him through his wonderful live gigs and solo albums. He always had time for his small, but loyal band of fans and would always have a hug for you and he knew everyone at his gigs by their first names. 

The news of Billy's passing came during the week thatwe had my Mum's funeral after she lost her 4 year battle with bowel cancer, so hearing the news about Billy was another terrible blow. Billy had recently completed the Camino Frances 780km from France across the Pyrenees into Spain. When I donated to his crowdfunding appeal for the walk he returned my donation. Knowing at that time how poorly my Mum was he said that there were more important things in life. It was a measure of the man and something now that I will never forget. 

For some chapters in the Lives & Times bowel cancer fundraising book I was able to combine business (not that I considered the book as work) with pleasure. One such chapter was photographing Billy at The Union Chapel in London. He was a keen a supporter of my fundraising efforts and more than happy to meet up to be photographed for the book. The original idea we came up with for the book photo was to photograph Billy in Fulham, doing a now and then type idea with present day Billy versus Billy from the 1980s. However when the concert at The Union Chapel was announced it was too good an opportunity to miss. For the first time in his career Billy played an acoustic show back by a gospel choir. To see his songs performed in such a way was truly magical and The Gospel Touch Choir were magnificent. It made for a wonderful chapter in the book, and all proceeds I receive are donated to Beating Bowel Cancer.

Only a few months ago Billy released his latest offering, A Far Cry From Sunset, which is a wonderful collection of beautifully crafted songs. I can't believe that we have lost such a diamond.

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