Musician Stewart Francke tells the world “What Makes Me Strong”

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

Music makes a difference in people’s lives. For musician and Saginaw native Stewart Francke, it saved his life.

In his memoir, “What Don’t Kill Me Just Makes Me Strong,” Francke discusses how music and the Detroit community helped him get through his struggles to

Photo courtesy of Untreed Reads
Photo courtesy of Untreed Reads

come out tougher, dealing with a bone marrow transplant and treatment for leukemia and overcoming drug addiction.

“Music was essential to surviving. Music changed my life and saved my life on many occasions,” Francke said. “When I was 17 and I didn’t know what I wanted to do, music helped me figure that out. Later, it helped me get through the transplant; it saved my life — literally saved my life. It’s that important — music is as essential as breathing.”

Francke has performed on tours with Bob Seger, Sheryl Crow, Eddie Money, Chicago and Hall and Oates.

He was named Most Popular Musician by Hour Detroit from 2002-2004, and won a music Lifetime Achievement Award from the Saginaw County Cultural Arts Commission. Francke also wrote as a music critic for the Metro Times.

Francke was diagnosed with leukemia in 1998.

Throughout the two years following, as he went through treatment and turmoil with the bone marrow transplant, he wrote songs as a way to deal  with the pain, as well as worries that his wife and young children might have to live without him.

During his struggle, he founded the Stewart Francke Leukemia Foundation as a way to help others suffering from the disease.

Concerts and music recordings brought in donations for the cause.

Through fundraising, Francke raised $200,000 to help minorities find bone marrow donors, because the process is expensive and it is difficult to find a match.

“(I chose this cause) because the disparity between Caucasians and minorities is enormous,” Francke said. “It’s so hard to find a match in the donor pool, that it was just calling out to be addressed. Detroit is a great blend of much ethnicity and races, and it was just something that needed to be addressed.”

Francke’s memoir shares his story, with commentary and flashbacks to different parts of his life. He said writing it was a long process, but helped him make sense of the situation.

“(It was) really cathartic to get it all out emotionally, to look at it in a chronological order of how things happened,” Francke said. “At the time, everything feels like chaos — a pandemonium. You don’t know if you’re going to make it from one second to the next. And then you look back on it, and it reads like a novel. Life makes more sense in retrospect.”

While the story itself is strong, Francke also said he is proud it was published eco-friendly as an ebook through Untreed Reads.

He said he wants people to approach his memoir with an open mind and take from it what they want.

“I want them to read it because I think it’s a compelling story, like a soldier that gets close to death,” Francke said.

“The experience helped me get some insight that I wouldn’t have had normally. The story is compelling — both poignant, with moments of great humor, real seriousness and battle.”

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