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edge staff writer


Foreigner's Lou Gramm on faith, drugs and rock & roll

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He chalks it up to The Beatles. Lou Gramm says that after seeing John, Paul, George and Ringo on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' at age 12 in February 1964, he had no doubt that his future lay in music.

The former voice of Foreigner, one of the best selling bands of the 1970s and 1980s, Gramm has finally released his autobiography.

'Juke Box Hero: My Five Decades in Rock and Roll' (Triumph Books) was co-written with Scott Pitoniak, and chronicles Gramm's life - from a music-obsessed kid in Rochester, New York to sold-out arenas around the world.

Along the way, Gramm battled addiction, embraced God and survived a brain tumor - the surgery for which severely damaged his pituitary gland, eventually causing him to leave Foreigner in 2003.

Still actively performing, Gramm and his band play a mix of Foreigner's hits and original Christian rock songs.

Gramm and Mick Jones, his former musical partner in Foreigner, were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2013. The event triggered a rekindled friendship between the pair, melting years of acrimony.

Excerpts follow from my interview with Gramm which was conducted in June and aired at that time on BIG 104 FM.

Dow: Foreigner is a rare case where you had major success from the start. What comes to mind when you think about how things came together so quickly for Foreigner?

Gramm: It was a combination of timing and belief in us by our record company, Atlantic Records. When we came out, disco was still ruling the charts. Along with Boston and maybe a couple of other groups, we started taking back the pop charts with good rock songs. That's what we intended when we sat down to write the songs on the album. We wanted tough songs that were infectious and had great dynamics.

Dow: Do you think success changed you as a person, or did you manage to keep your feet on the ground?

Gramm: I think I was still pretty grounded after the first album. We did a lot of touring, but we were an opening band for The Doobie Brothers when that first record came out. We were starting to take off but weren't quite established. They were very good to us, and the album really took off on that tour.

Dow: In your book, 'Juke Box Hero,' you write about how drugs and alcohol became a huge problem and the night in New York when you did something about it. If you hadn't, would I be talking to you right now?

Gramm: Probably not. I don't think I would be here today. I had known that I had a problem for a few years, but when you're addicted, you can fool yourself very easily. I was aware that drugs could kill me, but I wasn't ready to quit yet. It happened when we played Madison Square Garden in 1991. There was a big party afterwards, and all the paraphernalia was out and everybody was wrecked. I remember going back to my room and thinking that I didn't want this stuff in my life anymore. I literally fell to the ground and started praying that God could take this addiction away from me. When it was finally daylight, I called a friend who had gone through addiction, and he recommended this place in Minnesota called Hazelton. He called that place for me and then came and picked me up and drove me to the airport. When I got off the plane, someone from the clinic was there to meet me. They were nice and very gentle, and my cleansing was about to begin.

After I came out, I knew that I would still have urges for drugs and alcohol, but I leaned on God's strength to help me deal with it. To this day, I've never faulted. There were times when I was tempted, but it was because of my belief that God can do everything that I didn't go back to it. I've been clean and sober for 25 years, and I am so thrilled.

'The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow' can be heard on Big 104 FM The Biggest Hits of the '60s, '70s & '80s - airing on 104.7 (Bangor/Belfast), 104.3 (Augusta/Waterville) and 107.7 (Bar Harbor/Ellsworth)

Last modified on Tuesday, 22 September 2015 19:22


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