MARK FARNER- “NATURE BOY”
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MARK FARNER BAND PHOTOS FROM 2009
BY JOHN FISHER
BUCKS COUNTY COURIER TIMES
NOVEMBER 27, 1977
Mark Farner has seen the highs and lows in his rock career. He is remembered by most as the long-maned lead singer of Grand Funk Railroad, a pioneering force in the early days of hard rock.
Grand Funk was born during an era of social unrest among the youth of the country. It performed the type of music which was spawned by that time. It was hard-driving and loud and directed itself to social troubles and ecological themes.
It also had some of the wistfulness of the decade which stretched from the late ’60s into the early ’70s. Its ballads were peaceful, easy-moving anthems, which spoke of even better times to come. This was a time of hippies and pseudo-hippies. Peace and love was on the lips of most young persons. But the era died —almost simultaneously with the end of the war in Vietnam —and many of the groups which proliferated during that time period had to rework their formats to remain in the main-stream of musical popularity.
Grand Funk was one of the groups which entered the ’70s basically unchanged. It maintained its hard rock image and probably would have continued along those lines if the group had not suffered from internal disputes resulting in its disbanding in 1976.
Emerging from the ashes of Grand Funk was Farner. While a member of the group, he was one of its prime songwriters. He also was the visual focal point as its lead singer. Farner has not changed his philosophy about the rock world or about conditions in general.
Residing on a large farm in Northern Michigan, Farner still is concerned with ecology and the plight of his fellow man, although this no longer is a prime factor in the lives of most rock performers.
From the world of superstar status, Farner now has to reclimb the ladder to rock and roll popularity as a solo performer. “It’s (his career) doing all right. “It seems hard for me to get on with anybody —there are a lot of people who do not want me to open a show for them. We asked to go out on tour but it’s hard to get the gigs —the solid tour— so we have been doing one-nighters, here, there and all over the country.”
Farner recently was scheduled to appear in Philadelphia as the opening act for the Charlie Daniels Band. This tour was cancelled because of bad fan reaction which caused Farner to be struck by a thrown beer bottle at one of the concert sites. “The people who came to see Mark Farner at the Charlie Daniels show were appreciative and they were in the majority. The people were right there in the front row and all the people were digging it. The minority were sitting in the balcony somewhere. These bottles were thrown from the balconies and various places. I don’t know what caused that reaction, they probably had a bad time with their old lady or something.”
Farner indicated Grand Funk would not get together again but added that its parting of ways was amicable. “When the group split up —this last time— it wasn’t my idea, it was the drummer Don Brewer. “We had had a couple of bouts before this, but it had just never gotten down to quitting. “But this last time it was pretty unanimous. There was no animosity; we were still able to talk to one another and deal sensibly and objectively, look at it and say, ‘Hey, we can’t do this anymore because there is so much writing ability in the group that it cannot be expressed through one vehicle anymore.’ “Because a lot of the songs I wrote never made Grand Funk albums. Some of the songs I wrote the group would not necessarily get behind as far as where they were coming from. “They (the other group members) were taking
it pretty personally in the group;, they felt that the songs meant Grand Funk was making a statement; that everyone was getting behind it and saying it and playing it. “Some of the things I was saying in my songs, they did not want to get behind. These were political type songs. Songs I felt about ecology and world situations that I wanted to express through song. They arose from being around the world and traveling and seeing conditions.”
Now free of the group, Farner has returned to writing the socially conscious material which was popular in the ’60s but which has declined in recent years. “I’m still coming from the same spot. For me the values of the earth will never change, so I’m saying the same things. “We now are so far into what was wrong, that we don’t care to hear it anymore.”
Farner said today’s youth may not support issues as much as in the past, but they still react the same to music. “I don’t believe the people have learned to react any differently. If they are giving their all to you on the stage, you better give it back to them.”
Aside from starting a new career, Farner has a new band and album behind him. The album is entitled simply enough, “Mark Farner” —and the band Boasts the talents of his little brother. His debut solo album is good, but Farner plans some improvements for the future. “The next album, I think, will be more raw sounding. I think this album —after listening to it 100 times— was too refined. I never produced my own album, I’ve always been talked into letting some other producer produce my album, but I think I’ll produce the next album myself.
During his interview, Farner was relaxing in his farmhouse. He had bagged a deer—and personally slaughtered it— on the first day of the hunting season and he had just sold his harvest of corn to Kellogg’s for the manufacture of cornflakes. His whole life seems to revolve around the land and nature.
Mark said that it never ceases to amaze him that he can transform seemingly worthless pieces of green paper into tangible objects such as tractors and land. On the land he now finds inspiration for his new songs. “I have found myself riding around the fields on my tractor —riding around in circles, hearing the drone of the tractor’s motor— and the words to a song come to me.”
Mark Farner already has spent almost a decade in the world of rock & roll, a musical genre which almost is as much noted for its short life span as it is its a meteoric rise to fame. Farner gave no indication of leaving the rock world. He concluded, “I want to do it until people do not want to hear it anymore. To me, I believe God puts us all here for a purpose. What’s driving me is music. “Aging does not bother me. I’m taking it as it comes —we’re all going to have to work and get old if we are going to live. My manager told me my life style is such that I’m going to have to be the only 60 year old rock star.”
MARK FARNER SOLO DISCOGRAPHY:
1977 Mark Farner
1978 No Frills
1988 Just Another Injustice
1989 Wake Up
1991 Some Kind of Wonderful
2003 Live (w/NRG)
2006 For the People
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MARK FARNER BAND PHOTOS FROM 2009