We’re still reeling from the news of our friend Dean Francis’ passing yesterday. Starting with his kid group, the Fantastic Parrals, he has been making music in Columbus since the mid-1960s. His group The Soul Rockers issued “Funky Disposition” and “Tippin'” on Hillside (recorded at Larry McKenzie’s studio) which firmly secured his position as a force in Columbus. What really put him on the map was his connection to Bill Moss’ Capsoul label. He put every ounce of creative energy in the early 1970s into Capsoul, working as a “staff” songwriter for the tiny imprint. “Row My Boat”, “Too Far Gone”, “In A Rut, and “They Were Wrong” all made it to the pressing plant. “No Longer”, “Endlessly”, “Hysteria”, and “It Really Hurts To Lose A Love” stayed in the can, the former two seeing release only as part of the Eccentric Soul series. Contemporaneously, he recorded with Associated Press Band (although they didn’t issue a record until later) and wrote a musical called Society Line, performed at Ohio State. After Capsoul’s dissolution he continued working with the Kool Blues duo, making them a trio called Jupiter’s Release. They issued a single on the Owl label in 1976. In the meantime, he penned some tunes for another Columbus vocal group, Timeless Legend, including “Baby Don’t Do This To Me”. He reappears on Tom Murphy’s Owl label in 1977 with Dean Francis’ Funk-Harmonic.At the end of the decade he was touring with seminal Ohio stage band (and recording artist) Sun and producing work for younger artists Adria Shahid and Blain Emerson. Much of his material in the 1980s was socially conscious, including an anti-crack cocaine rap and pleas for non-violence. In the 1990s, Soulciety Records in Germany contacted Dean and brought him back to his roots. He toured Europe and issued three CDs (one of which also came out on LP.) All of this gives testament to how prolific he was, none of it gives any sense of who he was as a man. No matter how much talent he had, no matter how many brilliant songs he wrote, he was always humble and generous with anyone, experience or amateur, who was making music in Columbus. He was never beaten down by the terrible affliction that he dealt with the fifteen years of his life, that saw him lose the use of his hands and constantly enduring surgeries and treatments. He never ceased recording and songwriting, even as it became nearly impossible. We at the Numero Group are humbled to understand what he was able to achieve with unbearable obstacles. We’re just pleased to have known him well, and that we can help pay tribute to him.
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