In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s the American rock group Foreigner were one of the biggest acts around. Hits like Cold as Ice, It Feels Like the First Time and the world-wide monster hit I want to Know What Love Is propelled the band to global super-stardom.
Lead vocalist Lou Gramm started his musical career in his mid-teens playing in local bands in Rochester, New York. Lou’s big break came in 1976 when he met English guitarist Mick Jones, who was then playing with the well established group Spooky Tooth. Following some musical difficulties, Jones started looking for a lead vocalist for a new band he was planning in 1977. After auditioning 40 vocalists, all unsuitable for the ‘sound’ he wanted, Mick remembered his meeting with Lou a year earlier and listened to the album Black Sheep which Lou had given him. Mick was impressed with Lou’s singing. He contacted Lou, and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.
Foreigner developed as an Anglo-American hard rock group and were establish from their first eponymous album, which reached number 4 in the US, with the singles It Feels Like the First Time and Cold as Ice, both becoming big hits in the US and the UK.
The band continued to do well and in 1984 they hit the top of the charts worldwide with the album Agent Provocateur and the first single from that album I want to Know What Love Is.
Following some solo work and then a return to Foreigner, the band released their album MR Moonlight in 1995. The lyrics were filled with spiritual and Christian themes. It was an opportunity for Lou to open up about his Christian faith. Speaking to HM Magazine in 1996 he shared his story publicly for the first time.
“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 asked God to] 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 where I 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.”
Lou became aware of God and his need to follow Jesus Christ in the mid 1980’s. Following the celebrity and fame, he felt an emptiness. At that time he started to reach out to God.
“I would say that through the mid ’80s, late ’80s, and early ’90s, I was on the fringe… 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.”
Lou has had his challenges since he committed his life to Christ, and he does not believe in the ‘come to Jesus and everything will be easy’ kind of Christianity that is sometimes propagated. In April 1997, he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Although the tumour was benign, the resulting surgery damaged his pituitary gland. The arduous recovery program caused him to gain weight and seriously affected both his stamina and voice. But Lou was aware that God was with him, helping him through the illness and back onto the road to recovery.He continued to work with Mick Jones through his recovery and by 1998 was back touring with Foreigner.
Along with Mick Jones, Lou Gramm was inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2013. He continues to write songs and to tour with his band.
Story by Ralph Burden
photo: Lou Gramm performing with Foreigner in 1979. Photo by Misterweiss, used by kind permission.