Light Up Ya Lighter

Michael Franti and Spearhead, 2006

Based on the lyrics, is Franti supportive of the war on terror?

According to Franti, who was getting taken advantage of during the war? Why? Who profited?

According to Franti, how are soldiers and veterans treated in the United States?

What does Franti suggest Americans do to end the wars?

"Light Up Ya Lighter" performed by Michael Franti and Spearhead on Yell Fire! Sire, © 2006 Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

For more information about Michael Franti and Spearhead, visit their official website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult the following online resource for lyrics:

https://genius.com/Michael-franti-and-spearhead-light-up-ya-lighter-lyrics

Michael Franti was born in 1966 in Oakland, California, to racially mixed parents. He was adopted (along with another African American boy) by a white family and grew up in Davis, where his adopted father was a professor at the University of California. Later Franti admitted that he felt like an outsider growing up in this largely white community and took solace in music. Franti began writing poetry at an early age and later taught himself to play bass guitar, inspired by the hip-hop, punk, and reggae he heard on the radio.

In the mid-1980s Franti formed a band called the Beatnigs. The name simultaneously referenced the artists of the beat literary movement—the beatniks—and the offensive "n" word. Franti sees this use of the "n" word as not only a reference to the mistreatment of African Americans but also as representative of all the other "dehumanizing" epithets given to "all oppressed people who have actively taken a stand against those who perpetuate ethnic notions and discriminate on the basis of them" (quoted in Sullivan 203). The Beatnigs dissolved in 1992 and Franti formed the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy (that is, hip-hop-prisy, a combination of the words hip-hop and hypocrisy). The name of the band was again socially significant. Franti felt that the hip-hop community—predominantly African American at that time—was hypocritical for frequently disparaging another oppressed community, homosexuals. In 1994 Franti formed Spearhead, which shares its name with the 3rd Armored Division of the US Army. The band name reflects Franti's ongoing efforts to support social justice, in this case the fight for the just treatment of soldiers.

Body of War album cover
Album cover for Body of War.

"Light Up Ya Lighter" is an antiwar song in the style of reggae, a style in which a keyboard and/or bass plays on downbeats and a guitar plays chords on upbeats in a relatively slow and consistent back-and-forth pulse. The style originated in Jamaica, where it was associated with the poor and the oppressed. With these associations, the style has long been a vehicle for protest and rebelliousness, as in much of the music of Bob Marley and the Wailers. These characteristics make it an appropriate style for "Light Up Ya Lighter," in which Franti portrays US soldiers as oppressed by their dishonest government.

Compare this song to:

"Fixin' to Die Rag" (VAT Unit 8)