MARK FARNER
A LIVING LEGEND
ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE August 10th, 1989 wrote (Michael Azerrad):

"The true joy that I have now comes from knowing Jesus Christ as my Savior and my Lord, and rendering my life in servitude to him." So says Mark Farner, who was anything but a choirboy during his tenure as guitarist and singer with Grand Funk. Besides maintaining anotoriously Dionysian lifestyle - "I did everything I figured was humanly possible, and I bought two of everything" says Farner -  Grand Funk recorded fourteen albums of workingman´s hard rock, selling 25 million copies in the process.

The bandmembers racked up eleven consecutive platinum records and became millionaires within two years of their debut -all despite almost universal critical disfavor and little support from radio. The man whose group sold out Shea Stadium on two consecutive nights is now content to play bars and clubs. Before each gig, he prays with his band members. They play a set of three-quarters Grand Funk hits, "then I show them where I am at now," says Farner. "People come back and say, "Man, this new music is great - it´s better than Grand Funk! It really rocks!"

Sometimes he gets an even more fervent reaction from his fans. "We´ve prayded with people", he says. "A lot of them feel it´s their time in life and that the Lord has spoken to them." Last year he hit number two on Billboard´s inspirational chart with "Isn´t it amazing". Born forty years ago in Flint Michigan, Farner was a highschool dropout who briefly joined local sensations Terry Knight & the Pack, a band that included drummer Don Brewer. Farner and Brewer hooked up with bassist Mel Schacher and formed Grand Funk Railroad, later shortened as GRAND FUNK. With Knight as their Svengali-manager, Grand Funk became one of the most successfull rock bands in history.

 

Farner took advantage of his burgeoning bank account. "I´d come off the road and go on spending spree, just buying everything in sight, "he recalls. He bought airplanes, boats, trucks, cars, motorcycles and thousands of acres in Michigan and Canada. He even bought a bank. "That was the beginning of learning  stage, finding out that having all that crap ain´t nothing," he says. "It didn´t buy me no happiness, didn´t buy me no joy. Because money can´t buy it."

Grand Funk broke up at the height of disco era in 1977, reforming once and then disbanding for good in 1982. After that, Farner concentrated on his family. he sold off most of his 1600-acre farm on Michiga´s Upper Peninsula and built a spacious house with his own hans out of cedar logs. Then he opened Singing Spruce Enterprises, a store that sold everything from solar-energy panels to health food. He toured again with a band that included alumni from Mitch Ryder´s and Ted Nugent´s bands. and then he got saved.

Farner´s moment of reckoning came when his wife, Lisa, left him in 1983 and he reacted by hitting the bottle. "I was crying in my beer", he says. Then I looked at my two boys and thought, "This is not going to happen to my kids." I felt I needed God - and I knew that whatever I needed, I couldn´t go out and buy it, because I had already bought everything." Farner found a small, elderly congregation that didn´t know who he was, "and they just loved me", he says. He prayed his wife would come back; according to Farner, she "accepted the Lord into her life" and decided to give the marriage another chance. Their third child was born nine months ago.

Last year, Farner cut Just Another Injustice for Frontline, a small Christian-music label, in a style he calls "God Rock". The album is sold only in Bible bookstores, athough the guitars and drumd pound away as loudly as ever. The devil´s music? Not according to Farner. "If it contains the gospel message, man, that´s the bottom line," he says. "The beat has nothin´to do with it."

Michael Azerrad