That time Mark Farner of Grand Funk told me how he became a born-again Christian

By Steve Newton

Man, if there’s one song I remember fondly from the summer of 1973 it’s Grand Funk’s “We’re An American Band”. To my 16-year-old ears that 3 1/2-minute song had everything: a wicked, cowbell-drenched drum intro, killer guitar licks, funky-ass bass lines, and rowdy, party-hearty lyrics to die for. “Out on the road for forty days/Last night in Little Rock, put me in a haze.”

Since this was way before he advent of video, I always pictured muscular he-man guitarist Mark Farner–who was the main songwriter at the time–as singing that tune. That made it seem even more rockin’ in my teenage mind. (It wasn’t until much later that I learned it was written and sung by Afro-headed drummer Don Brewer.)

Back in September of 1991 I got to interview Farner before a show in Vancouver, and he had to remind me that that wasn’t his song, and that–to my sheer disappointment–he would not be playing it. Turns out its bacchanalian vibe was also not in keeping with his current status as a born-again Christian.

Having not met that many born-again Christians, I asked him how that whole move to playing what he called “God rock” came about.

Have a listen:

 

To hear my full 1991 interview with Mark Farner–and dozens more vintage conversations with the legends of rock–become a patron of the Newt on Patreon. It’s only 5 bucks a month (U.S., mind you).

 

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