Unsung Dean E. Francis, born December 21, 1951, is one of Columbus, OH's brightest musical lights. The oldest of two sisters and one brother, Dean's father, John L. Francis, was the city's first African-American City Attorney. Francis studied drums and piano as a kid but initially favored the drums; he graduated from Columbus East High in 1969, where he served as the Head Drummer of their Tiger Marching Band. His musical influences include Billy Preston, Ramsey Lewis, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, and Junie Morrison, the innovative and underrated Dayton, OH native who played with the Ohio Players and recorded some solo albums.
In 1969, as Dean Francis & the Soul Rockers, Francis cut his first single, "Funky Disposition," on Hillside Records. In 1972 he worked for Capsoul Records, drumming on sessions and accompanying the Four Mints on the road; he also wrote their most popular song, "Row My Boat." As a playwright, Francis wrote the pioneering black rock opera Society Line that was performed at the Ohio Theater in 1973. He played with both Associated Press and Jupiter, the latter recorded "Never, Never" on Owl Records in 1976. He released his first solo effort, "Faces in the Street," on Virgin Ear Records in 1978. That same year he wrote, composed, and directed a second musical called Kids, which was showcased at Capital University.
The Dayton funk band Sun hired Francis to play keyboards in November 1979; he toured with Sun throughout the U.S., Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo, Japan for nearly three years. He recorded three albums with them: Sun Over the Universe, Force of Nature, and Let There Be Sun, and co-wrote two songs, "Reaction Satisfaction, Jam Y'all" and "Funk It Up." Francis left Sun after the Japan tour to pursue a career in media production, scoring with "I Had to Play That Number," an infectious jingle he wrote and performed for the Ohio State Lottery in 1984. The popular rap commercial was the first by the Lottery Commission to feature African Americans in prominent roles; it won two awards at the International Film & TV Festival in 1984.
Francis uses his musical downtime to write, and authored two books: Word, a collection of poetry and philosophical sayings and essays, and Attitude Adjustment, which deals with the negative attitudes that hold people back. In 1994, Francis wrote, produced, directed, and performed the music videos Without Guns and Real Deal Rap, both have positive messages for teens facing today's hazards, the former won NBPCs' Prized Pieces award.
Hamburg, Germany's Soulciety Records has released two CDs by Francis: This Groove's for You, in 1995, and Black as All That, in 1998. Francis toured Germany to support the releases. He recorded the latter CD in Germany; the music is a combination of what he calls "Funkamajazz," a fusion of old-school funk and East Coast jazz.
Francis runs a media production business, Music Media International, and is a Business Development Specialist for the Urban League of Columbus, OH. His background is in social work, and he has worked for various state and county agencies, including the Ashburn Youth Center on the city's Westside, while pursing his musical dreams If you're in the Columbus area, you can catch him sometimes gigging or just jammin' at various clubs, including The Lobby on South Hamilton Rd., where Central Ohio's best players come together. The amazing thing about Dean Francis is that as extensive as his musical résumé is, it isn't over yet, not by a long shot.