LOU GRAMM, lead singer with American AOR superstars Foreigner, has become a Christian. He spoke to Doug Van Pelt.
His most famous vocal was the international chart topper "I Want To Know What Love Is". Now Lou Gramm, veteran lead singer with America's superstar AOR band Foreigner, knows. For in 1994, shortly after recording Foreigner's latest album, Lou Gramm became a Christian.
Before joining Foreigner Lou, born Lou Grammatico in Rochester, New York, had worked with covers band Poor Heart and then Black Sheep, the latter recording two albums for Capitol. But it was in 1976 that Gramm joined Foreigner which was to become one of America's biggest rock bands. Formed by British guitarist Micky Jones, Foreigner (consisting of Jones, Rick Willis (bass), Dennis Elliott (drums) and Lou Gramm) holed up for a year writing and rehearsing before releasing their hugely successful eponymous album for Atlantic.
Mega hits followed. Ballads like "I Want To Know What Love Is" and "Waiting For A Girl Like You" and rockers like "Cold As Ice" and "Hot Blooded" were never off American radio. The haunting, gospel-tinged "I Want To Know What Love Is" featured the New Jersey Mass Choir. In May 1990 after two solo albums for Atlantic, Lou left Foreigner. However in 1992 Mick and Lou started to write together again and shortly afterwards the new Foreigner line up of Jones, Gramm, Bruce Turgon, Jeff Jacobs and Mark Schulman began touring.
In 1995 Foreigner signed to BMG who released the 'Mr Moonlight' album, an album crammed with spiritual ponderings. In the July/August 1996 issue of HM magazine Lou Gramm spoke for the first time about his Christian faith.
Doug: Every Christian has their own story about how they came
to Christ. What's your story?
Lou: "Well, I'll try to make it as brief as possible. I really have always felt the presence of the Lord, and certainly acknowledged him, but always seemed to keep him at arm's length and only called upon him when I needed him. And then it was like I thanked him, and like, Til take over from here.' I think I just came to a point in my life where, as a parent and just as a person, I had really emotionally and spiritually bottomed out. I just felt there was more to life, certainly, than what I was getting out of it. I could see not only the state and the condition of this world and the country we live in, but my own personal life and my beliefs and everything were just needed to call out to him and ask for something meaningful - to put everything in perspective. I feel there's more to it than the amount of time we have on this planet."
Doug: What was the timetable when this was
Lou: "I think really over the last dozen years, maybe from the mid-'80s. I think the material success and the public accolades and just the whole celebrity thing -1 never bought into it, and I was always uncomfortable with it. I just knew that it wasn't the part that I was in this career for. For me, it was for the creative end of it and really being able to reach people through the songs I was writing and performing. But, all the other stuff that went along with it kind of diminished my enthusiasm for what I was doing. So, I would say that through the mid '80s, late '80s, and early '90s, I was on the fringe of really...I was doing some shopping, spiritual shopping. I got an earful and an education about New Age spirituality, etc. That left me cold. I really was searching in those years. Through the years, some very dear friends of mine began to attend a non-denominational church in Rochester.
"I really found what I was looking for: a real 'come as you are' type of attitude, really steeped in the Word, and the Scriptures and the teachings that are applicable to today's life and the world that we're living in now. I really got into the book of Revelation. I just found what I was looking for - a real sense of well being in being a follower of Jesus. I think that everything I had been through up to that point in my life led me up to where I finally made the commitment and accepted him as my Lord and my Saviour, instead of just a part time, 'get me out of trouble' God. I think that's where the difference lies. That's kind of it in a nutshell."
Doug: I remember hearing about the experience you guys had
when filming the video to "I Want To Know What Love Is", where the New
Jersey Mass Choir came in, and everyone held hands and repeated the
Lou: "Yeah, that was actually during the recording, not the video. They did that before they sang on the recording and it was really moving. It stunned us in the control room. We were just literally moved to tears that their performance was directed at our Lord. I think anyone could feel that the song goes way beyond a love ballad. I think emotionally, I was turned inside out and emptied out."
Doug: Have you imagined in your mind, or formulated a vision
of what it must be like for God the Father when you are singing unto
Lou: "Well, I hope he's smiling. I'm not sure. He's all knowing, so he certainly knows what's going on. He knows my thoughts and my heart. I try and keep it pure and focused when I sing. For me, now, it's a lot different than in years past, but I still have fun with it. It's quite a bit more meaningful now than it ever has been. I thank him for the gift that he's given me, and I maintain a sense of humility about it and acknowledge that it is a gift from him and it's not my skill or my good fortune. I'm blessed."
Doug: What have your band mates and other peers thought of
Lou: "I think they were curious more than anything at first, but certainly not disrespectful, because I'm not given to go off on tangents, like, 'Oh, there goes Lou on another one of his...' I never do that. So, when I accepted the Lord and let my band mates know, they'd see me walking around with my Bible and devotionals and things like that... I think they're curious in their own way. I certainly can't project what will come of it, but it's lent a mildly different atmosphere to our tour bus and our whole on and off stage persona. It's not that we've become a Christian band; we're not. We're a secular band and it's not that the guys I play with are a bunch of crude heathens. We're all family men with morals and beliefs of our own. I think they're believers in God, but I think they look at where I am spiritually with a lot of interest."
Doug: What do you think the future holds for
Lou: "I don't know. We're not a bunch of early 20-year-old alternative rockers. We're not the chart toppers we were 15 years ago. That's not to say we couldn't be again. I don't think there's a lot of bands left that are still creating and making what I consider to be relevant music that have been around as long as us. I hope that we can use our God-given skills for some good. We still enjoy performing. I don't think anyone on this planet can predict the future, but if the Lord chooses to use us in any way, I'm sure he will. For me to walk away from this now, it's like it's a platform to be the kind of example of the kind of person he wants me to be. I accept it, and certainly feel willing to let him work through me - and the band."
Doug: What, if anything else, have you been doing with your
Lou: "I've been singing at church, which I really enjoy doing. Basically that's it, just letting it rest. We were out for 15 months over the past two years. At the end, it was fairly strained. As well as I try to take care of it, at some point you can lose resiliency and out-and-out, you need a rest. We do a pretty civilised tour. There's no abuses in the band at all. It's just from night after night, the accumulation of fatigue. My voice is in fine shape now. There's a really good feeling in the band. The creativity level is better than I remember since the band started, like 18, 19 years ago. So everybody's got high hopes; a lot of prayer going out from my end. I really am just taking it day by day, and not being obsessed with any kind of projected level of success. I really feel the importance of being a dad - which to me is really important - of being a son to my parents, and really just staying in the Word and learning all I can, because I'm still a rookie. I have been saved only about a year and a half; although, like I said, being on the periphery about three or four years before I finally made the commitment. I've got a lot to learn."
Doug: We all do - for the rest of our lives.
Lou: "That's right, for the rest of our lives."
Doug: What is worship like for you and how do you think art
and worship relate to each other?
Lou: "In terms of music?"
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