In some ways, former Grand Funk Railroad lead singer and lead guitarist Mark Farner was born to be in an American band.
“I enjoy the entertainment aspect of the stage life,” Farner said. “I do a theatrical performance. I run around on stage when I perform. That’s part of who I am. I bring it to the audience. I bring the energy and the music to the people.”
Farner will perform on Friday, Aug. 22, at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora as part of the Happy Together Tour. Other performers on the tour include The Turtles, featuring Flo & Eddie; Chuck Negron, formerly of Three Dog Night; Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels; and Gary Lewis & The Playboys.
The rock band Grand Funk Railroad was formed in 1968 by Farner (guitar, vocals), Don Brewer (drums, vocals) and Mel Schacher (bass). The group’s hit songs include “I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home),” “We’re an American Band,” “The Loco-Motion” and “Some Kind Of Wonderful.”
Grand Funk Railroad disbanded and regrouped several times over the years, finally parting ways in the late 1990s. Brewer and Schacher still tour under the Grand Funk band name, while Farner performs solo. Farner toured with Ringo Starr and His All-Starr band for a year in 1995, and also established himself as a contemporary Christian musician.
“In 1985 I started playing Christian music,” Farner said. “I played in prisons, drug rehab centers, jails, prison camps. One time I was in a biker bar. More than 50 people came up to my afterwards and wanted to pray. It was very rewarding.”
Also rewarding for Farner is his songwriting, having written many of Grand Funk Railroad’s hits, including his best-known composition, the band’s 1970 hit “I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home).”
“I like to perform ‘I’m Your Captain’ because it was the first song in which I wrote the lyrics first,” Farner said. “Most songs come from melodies from jamming on the piano or the guitar.
“I went to sleep and said my prayers and I had a P.S. and I asked God to give me a song that people can relate to,” he continued. “I wrote the lyrics down in the middle of the night on a note pad. In the morning I got some coffee, sat at the table and played my guitar. I remembered I had written the words down, so I got the note pad and it all came out in five minutes. It felt good. I thought, ‘This song is a hit.’”
As for the Happy Together Tour, Farner is excited about being with the other acts.
“These are people I listened to when I was growing up,” he said. “I am the youngest on the tour. I am 65; I’ll be 66 in September. It is an honor for me to be there. These guys have paid their dues.”
Farner is also glad to be performing after he had a pacemaker put in to correct a heart problem a year and a half ago.
“I bounced back because the doctor said, ‘Don’t baby it,” he said. “So I didn’t. I just kept on rockin’. That’s what I need to do until I suck my last breath.”
Happy Together Tour
Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora
8 p.m. Aug. 22