Michael Franti traveled to a Baghdad hospital in 2005. There he met a 7-year old Iraqi boy who lost his legs in a bomb blast.
The meeting is depicted in Franti's 2006 documentary, I Know I'm Not Alone. The boy sits upright on his gurney, his mutilated legs falling limp and bandaged in front of him. He picks his nails nervously while Franti plays guitar.
Then, the boy takes a sheet of paper and a pen, thinks for a minute, and draws Franti a picture.
It's a moment that encapsulates the recurring theme of Franti's best music - people's enduring capacity to resist emotional and spiritual defeat, even at the bottom of the well of injustice.
In his music, which melds hip-hop, reggae and rock sounds, Franti explores the simple ways people do that: They make friends. They make art and music. They love.
It's the same idea that powers Franti's current hit single, "Say Hey (I Love You)."
"'Say Hey' is a song about life's journey," says Franti. "No matter where it takes us, no matter how hard it may seem to understand at times, there is one thing we know for sure. We love the people who are closest to us."
"Say Hey"'s lyrics reflect that certainty: "I say hey I be gone today/But I be back around the way/Seems like everywhere I go/The less I see the more I know/But I know one thing/That I love you."
Franti, 43, has been making music since he formed the Beatnigs in the late '80s. He grew up the adopted son of a Finnish American couple in Oakland, Calif. His parents had three biological children and adopted one other African American son.
Franti performs at the Wisconsin Union Theater on Sunday, Sept. 27.
The official video to "Say Hey (I Love You)" has been viewed more than a million times on YouTube. Filmed in the ghettos and working-class streets of Brazil, the video is an energetic compilation of smiles, kisses and dancing.
It's all set to beats and piano chords that are sure to get you feeling the love if you go see this show.