Cree Summer

Cree Summer, known by many for her role on TV's "A Different World," has been touring

the world recently as opening act for funk-rocker Lenny Kravitz and will be appearing on

some of this year's Lilith Fair dates.

Summer's music is a mix of funky soul and pop. In addition to playing a variety of

instruments, she writes most of her material.

Cree Summer Francks was born 30 years ago today in California to a dancer mother

and actor/musician father. Summer's father moved his family to a Plains Cree Indian

reserve in Saskatchewan, Canada, where he built them a mud house to live in.

In addition to the mud house, Summer lived in a school bus, a horse stable and a

commune during her youth. She didn't attend school until she was enrolled in the fourth

grade in Toronto. Summer subsequently did voice work for cartoons and received a

sizable income that enabled her to drop out of school at 16.

During her years on "A Different World" playing a flower child, Summer met Kravitz, who

was married to Lisa Bonet, another of the show's stars. Kravitz, who has remained a

friend, produced Summer's debut LP, Street Faerie (1999). The LP includes cuts

such as "Fall," inspired by Walt Whitman, and "Nahao"

(RealAudio excerpt), which recounts

Summer's roots. The track "Miss Moon," composed with Kravitz, was written for Bonet.

"[Lenny is] very persnickety and has an exquisite ear," Summer said. "Lenny made me

sing better, and that's a great gift."

Summer duets with Kravitz on the track "Mean Sleep."

She also filmed a video — directed by Bonet — for the album's first single,

"Revelation Sunshine," the first song she ever wrote.

Before beginning her solo career, Summer sang lead in the rock band Subject to

Change. The group recorded one album, Womb Amnesia, before splitting.

Last year, Summer sang backup on Robbie Robertson's Contact From the

Underworld of Redboy, an LP that dealt with his Indian roots.

Summer provides the voice of the character Susie Carmichael for the popular "Rugrats"

animated TV show — a role she repeated in last year's "The Rugrats Movie." Her

other voice credits include "Mortal Kombat: The Animated Series," "Inspector Gadget,"

"Ewoks" and "Tiny Toon Adventures."

Summer, who is currently gigging in Europe, cites traditional native Cree songs and

artists Frank Zappa, Al Green and Dinah Washington as influences. She is also an avid

reader of classic poetry and literature, which often influence her song lyrics.

Other birthdays: Ringo Starr, 59; Jim Rodford (Kinks/Argent), 58; Warren Entner (The

Grass Roots), 55; David Hodo (Village People), 52; Larry Reinhardt (Iron Maiden), 51;

Mark Burton White (Spin Doctors), 37; and Ricky Kinchen (Mint Condition), 33.