Childhood & Early Life
Black Francis was born Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV in Boston, Massachusetts. His father was a bar owner and moved to Los Angeles, California to explore more about the business. His parents separated, and his mother re-married.
Introduced to music at a young age, he learnt to play the guitar by the age of twelve. His stepfather was religious, and they joined a church attached to evangelical ‘Assemblies of God’.
He graduated from high school in 1983, and enrolled at the ‘University of Massachusetts’, Amherst, for a major in Anthropology. He became friends with Joey Santiago who introduced him to punk music.
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Career and Later Life
A college exchange program took him to Puerto Rico. On returning back, he left college, and joined Santiago in Boston. They formed the band ‘Pixies’ in 1986 with bassist, Kim Deal, and drummer, David Lovering.
In 1987, Pixies released ‘The Purple Tape’. The demo tape helped them win a recording contract with English record label ‘4AD’. He adopted the name ‘Black Francis’ when they released the mini-album ‘Come on Pilgrim’.
He wrote and sang all the tracks, (except for ‘Gigantic’ which was co-written and sung by Deal), on their debut album ‘Surfer Rosa’ in 1988. The band went on a European tour to promote the album.
Between 1990 and 1991, the band came together and recorded the albums ‘Bossanova’ and ‘Trompe le Monde’, the latter being his first collaboration with Eric Drew Feldman, with themes touching on aliens and UFOs.
Starting with the album ‘Bossanova’, he began writing all the lyrics, causing tension between him and Kim Deal. Tensions peaked, and Pixies split in 1992.
In 1993, he released the album ‘Frank Black’, and even adopted the name. Feldman, who played the keyboard and bass guitar, produced it. Santiago played lead, and Nick Vincent, the drums.
Black released ‘The Cult of Ray’ via Rick Rubin’s ‘American Recordings’ in 1996. It featured Lyle Workman on lead guitar, David McCaffrey on bass and Scott Boutier on drums.
Calling the band ‘Frank Black and the Catholics’, they recorded their eponymous album in 1997. It was released the following year, by ‘SpinArt Records’. The album was available for commercial download via ‘eMusic’.
‘Frank Black and the Catholics’ released ‘Pistolero’ in 1999 and ‘Dog in the Sand’, two years later.
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In 2002, they released two albums namely ‘Black Letter Days’ and ‘Devil’s Workshop’. The latter contained ‘Velvety’, a version of the Pixies’ ‘Velvety Instrumental Version’ with lyrics.
The Catholics’ sixth album ‘Show Me Your Tears’, released in 2003, contained songs inspired by Black’s divorce, including the title song. The Pixies announced a reunion, and toured the US, Canada and Europe.
They recorded Kim Deal’s ‘Bam Thwok’, and released it on ‘iTunes Music Store’. The double album ‘Frank Black Francis’ was released at the same time at the Pixies reunion tour.
In 2005, Black Francis released ‘Honeycomb’ in collaboration with a group of Nashville session men, Steve Cropper, Spooner Oldham, Reggie Young, Anton Fig, and producer Jon Tiven. It won favorable reviews.
‘Fast Man Raider Man’, a double album with the Nashville sessions men was released in June 2006. He continued touring with the Pixies, and the Catholics became inoperative.
The fall of 2006 saw him embark on a solo tour. In December, he released the compilation album ‘Christmass’. ‘Frank Black 93-03’ was released in June, the following year.
The album ‘Bluefinger’ that drew inspiration from Dutch artist-musician Herman Brood was released in September 2007, under the name Black Francis, as was the mini album ‘Svn Fngrs’ released in March, next year.
He produced the group Art Brut’s album, ‘Art Brut vs. Satan’ in 2008. They, in return, supported the Pixies at the Brixton Academy show. He also worked with them for their album ‘Brilliant! Tragic!’
Black and his wife Violet Clark formed the band ‘Grand Duchy’. ‘Petit Fours’, their debut album, was released in February 2009. The album ‘Let the People Speak’ was released three years later.
The album ‘NonStopErotik’ was released in the Black Francis name in March 2010. He provided the song ‘I Heard Ramona Sing’ for the soundtrack of the film ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’.
In 2010, he collaborated with Reid Paley as Paley & Francis, on their eponymous album with Paley and Black Francis on guitars and vocals, Spooner Oldham on piano, and David Hood on bass.