I first met Lou Gramm September 22, 1985, in Champaign, Illinois at the Farm Aid show that Willie Nelson and a number of artists put together. I was there with “Petra”, one of the top Gospel rock bands at the time. Lou was performing with Foreigner.
Mick Jones had written a song in 1984 “I want to know what Love is” in collaboration with Lou, it became their first single off their record “Agent Provocateur”. That song was probably the highlight of the entire festival.
The next time, I saw Lou was backstage at a show in Salem. OR, it was an outdoor show at the Oregon State Fair’s L. B. Day Amphitheatre the first part of September, 1992. A number of bands were headlining including Foreigner. Earlier that year Lou had become a born again Christian “I want to know what love is” took on a new meaning for him. There was nor a dry eye in the audience, when he finished the song. I am sure that very few people knew about the change in his life, but his performance made it very apparent that he was singing the song from the heart.
I am sharing the transcription of a conversation that Scott Ross from CBN held in an interview with Lou Grann in which he shares the experiences that changed him radically. He openly talks about his struggles, and he speaks sincerely about his feelings, telling us how he got this new faith that helped him to overcome the most difficult and troubled times of his life
Scott: At a point of your life, when you were extremely succesful, did you bind to the whole rock n’roll scene… you know, sex, drugs and rock n’roll? Were you living that stuff?
Lou: “Yes, I was… all of it. Thought I grew up in a good solid family background, I honestly felt that drugs and alcohol were changing me into a person ― or had changed me into a person ― that I didn’t recognize anymore”.
Scott: How did that happen?
Lou: “I think it was more like when I came to New York. It was prevalent. And most of the guys of the band kept different hours. I was used to be operating in the morning and in bed by midnight. When we would record, a lot of times we would begin recording at about 5 or near 6 pm, and work until 4 or 5 of the next morning. At that time my sensibilities were not clear anymore, and just would begin to… be one of the guys.”
Scott: How were you feeling?
Lou: “I could feel myself changing inside in a negative way. It was just party after party and it became very habitual. When I tried to stop, I was very surprised that what was fun before, became something that I absolutely needed, and at that point I knew that it was way past the recreational and I began to really dislike the person that I had become.”
Scott: Did you had all the trappings of success and what you wanted?
Lou: “What I thought I needed. And I needed more of the same.”
Scott: More success?
Lou: “And everything I was in.”
Scott: So how did you finally realize that this reality wasn’t really for you…?
Lou: “I think it was a night after we had played in Madison Square Garden and I lived about sixty miles at north in Manhattan and I was not in the condition to drive myself home.
Scott: You were high?
Lou [nodding his head]: “At the end of an after party, after a show party, and I knew my wife and children would be expecting me, but, at number one, I could’t drive myself, nor did I wanna have them see me like that. So I stayed the night in Manhattan and grappled with the person I had become.”
Scott: What did you see?
Lou: “Something that I didn’t like, I didn’t like and didn’t respect and I saw the possibility of my own demise. It was in this huge, posh hotel room that I got down on my knees asking for God’s help to heal me and help me to get rid myself of this horrible addiction. I just started praying, because I knew there wasn’t anybody in the world that could help me.”
Scott: Did you know how to pray?
Lou: “I think I just started talking to God, it wasn’t necessary a prayer in a pre-fabicated form. It was a conversation.”
Lou: “That I didn’t want to be in this position and that I really believed that that lifestyle had the better of me and that I couldn’t walk away from it on my own, that I needed it, more than it needed me; and I prayed for the strenght and the sense to break the chains.”
Scott: What happened?
Lou: “The next morning I called a place that a friend have told me about, called ‘Hazelden, in Minnesota, and went to rehab. I didn’t know for what was it but it was a good facility and there was a pastor as part of the rehab to re-connect with God. That’s where I became a Christian. I received Jesus that moment.”
Scott: Did you tell your band mates?
Lou: “Not right away, but when I returned in the next tour month’s later, nothing in the band had changed. They said they were all thrilled that I had cleaned myself up. After a show, as usual, we were driving on the bus to the next city, and the cocaine lines and the joints came out, and I let them know that I wouldn’t be doing that with them anymore.”
In 1992, Lou had departed from the band (which is one of the “breaks between” tours he talks about). Later he rejoined and in the next Foreigner album, “Mr. Moonlight”, he clearly expressed some glimpses of a new faith who was putting down roots in his music composition:
Scott: “Did the song “I want to know what love it” take on a new meaning for you?
Lou: “Totally. We had a young girl who was a singer, and whenever we would have shows coming up, we would have at end of each show about one week, and she would find a real talented and soulfull choir; and when we would perform alive, the choir would come on stage and sing that song with us. And it would bring the house down every time.
They were always Christian choirs, baptist, sometimes white, sometimes black, sometimes mixed, but the point is that they would sing the song with a soulfull feeling, to me there was no doubt what the song was about.
I remember when we were recording the song a friend of Mick Jones came in, and he was a representative for a small gospel group of New Jersey. He suggested that we should use a choir for that song, and suggested a choir that he was involved in, the ‘New Jersey Mass Choir’. They came in, and before they sang, they made a big circle and hold their hands and said the Lord’s prayer while we were in the control room. When they started singing, it was just changed!, it changed the meaning of the song. The song was big enough in its lyrics, that when the choir was put on it, kind of got a double meaning, so that it could be about a person and his God, you know.”
Just after collaborating in Petra’s album “Petra Praise 2: We Need Jesus”, in 1997, some juncture hit when Gramm was diagnosed with a rare type of brain tumor called a “craniopharyngioma”. Fortunately, it was benign, but the complex surgery to remove it actually threatened, not only the singer’s career, but his very life as well.
Scott: What were the first signs of your tumor?
Lou: “I got intense headaches when I would wake up in the morning. I didn’t know why that was coming. Also I would call my mom and dad who have had the same phone number over 20 years and I couldn’t remember the last four numbers. That started to really scare me. I would see people at the grocery store who I had known for 10 or 15 years and couldn’t remember their name. The doctor recommended that I would go for an MRI [Magnetic resonance imaging], and they found a tumor in the frontal lobe of my brain about the size of an egg that had tentacles wrapped around my optic nerve and my pituitary glandand. They determined that it had been growing in me since birth. I thought I was in a bad dream, really. I just couldn’t figure out”
Scott: Was it operable?
Lou: “Some told that it was so big that they knew they couldn’t operate, other said that it’d be extremely difficult and they didn’t hope a lot of hope of success. I went back to home, thinking that I was going to die.
One night I was watching a segment about a doctor in Boston, who is provider of laser surgery that he was using to operate brain tumors that were considered “inappropriate”. They gave a phone number, and I was on the phone early the next morning, I talked to his assistant and told her what my prognostic was and she told me that there was a cancellation on Thursday and that I should come to Boston that very day. It was Tuesday.”
Scott: They didn’t give you so much time to think a lot…
Lou: “And I did. Thursday morning about 4:30 am, they were wheeling me into the operating room and they had the drip in my to put me under. I was praying to God that if He wanted to take me, I was ready. I didn’t pray for Him to let me live; I prayed that He may do His will. The operation took 19 hours but the tumor was successfully removed. I was very happy to be alive.”
The operation’s effects and the heavy medication caused Lou’s weight to balloon from 145 pounds to 260 in a year. He would lose his train of thought, fall asleep in the middle of conversations and get aptia. He had three car crashes after falling asleep at the wheel.
Scott: How long did it take you to get back on stage?
Lou: “The operation was in April and I was performing in August. I shouldn’t have been anywhere near a stage, however, I was told by management that Foreigner had commitments and that I needed to get on the road. I knew it was way to early. I couldn’t remember the words to any of the songs. They all had to be written down in big marker pens and taped to the floor because I couldn’t figured out all the words, I lost key words. When the band would take the stage, I could see people gone and the reviews were like ‘what happened to Lou?, it’s like he’s taking too much pasta’”
Scott: In the middle of all that, was there disillusionment ?
Lou: “A little bit. I thought that when the operation was over, there would be a recovering, but it took at least 4 and half or 5 years to start feeling any better. I felt that God was testing me. At 2001 and 2002 , I would wake up in the morning feeling more tired that I went to bed at night.”
Scott: What happened to the marriage?
Lou: “Over. Lost. She told I wasn’t the man she fell in love with. When the marriage ended and we went to court, it was really obvious that I was in capable of seeing my two little twins much, cause I could barely take care of myself.”
Scott: What happened to your brothers and friends?
Lou: “My brothers and friends were good, I had a lot of people visiting me and helping me, cooking for me as a child in bed.”
Scott: When did it change?
Lou: “About 2002, I just noticed that litle by little my conciousness and my thoughts were coming to me more naturally and I was feeling better. I was told that maybe my creativity would have been damaged by the operation, but I realized that I was still able to create and compose music.”
Lou remained with Foreigner for years, but he finally parted ways in 2003. Since leaving Foreigner, Gramm’s health would continue to improve. He has lost half the weight he gained after the operation, and in 2009, he decided to start a new Christian musical project called “The Lou Gramm Band”.
Scott: Tell us about “The Lou Gramm Band”
Lou: “I had thought a lot about making a Christian rock album, not a trade back to payback the Lord for letting me live, but I have a God-given talent, and I felt and wanted to honour Him by using it for Him.
Right before my dad passed away in 2002, he had just got the three Gramm brothers in the room, and said that it was mom’s and his hope that someday the boys would do something together.
Even though my brothers and my friends believe in God they were not sure about what I wanted to do. But they jumped on board and as soon as we started writing songs and they heard the lyrics and the powerful music, they were moved. They really loved it now.”
Scott: So Lou Gramm is back!?
Scott: With the Lou Graham Brothers together?
Lou: “You better believe it.”
Today Lou is performing Foreigner songs with his new band.
Though it has not became famous in the market due to the lack of advertising, his Christian music album remains as one of the most powerful testimonies of his commitment and faith.
The God-given talent of this rock-legend is very strong and alive, and his music continues to be promising. With electric guitars, rhythmic drumming, fresh melodies, complex guitar solos, keyboard accompaniment, soothing backing vocals, and sense of conviction in the high-pitched voice behind; the songs in the album “The Lou Gramma Band” is conveys high-quality music, great compositions, and powerful Christian messages.
The album also includes an excellent and sweet version of Billy Preston’s “That’s The Way God Planned It”, in which Lou sings at the top of his lungs and with a strong voice:
In an interview in July 0f 2013 with Scott, Lou remembers the time where he passed through health problem. He reflects and says it was a nightmare, but one that “I guess it was in God’s time that he was gonna bring me some glimpse of normalcy and little peace in my llife, you know, and the fog did lifted and I started thinking a lot clear and I actually that I was getting better. ” He discusses how it was an honor to be inducted to the “Songwriters Hall of Fame” in 2013, and the possibility of performing again together with Mick Jones; something that –at this time– have already happened a couple of times. Wearing a cross on his neck, he told with a smile that he is now on his third marriage and his wife is expecting.