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Grand Funk Railroad’s Mark Farner on Drugs, Soldiers, and Breakups

Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In a recent interview, Mark Farner, one-time leader of Grand Funk Railroad, talked about the legacy of the mighty band.  “We were a bunch of 20-year-old rock and rollers who were putting our thoughts out there and looking for answers, and so were our fans.” he said. ” We were saying what everybody wanted to say.”

As he explained to Rock Cellar Magazine, Grand Funk never fell victim to the era’s excesses. Farner explains, “I only smoked marijuana and the reason for that was that was that I saw what happened to all those other people who went a bit further.” he said, “A lot of my friends checked out early because of some of the things they got behind.” Another aspect of the band that differed from their peers was their stance on those coming back from the war. Even though Farner was against the Vietnam war, he was never against those who went to fight.  “I acknowledged the war because a lot of my good buddies were Vietnam vets.” Farner said, “They told me that I should move to Canada or do whatever I had to do to avoid getting into it. A lot of my friends died in Vietnam.  A lot of them fell for the propaganda and the bullshit and that’s why they went.”

The band split up in 1976, soon after the release of their Frank Zappa-produced ‘Good Singin’, Good Playin’ album. “It was Don Brewer who broke up the band.” Farner said, “He was late to a rehearsal. Finally he walked in and said ‘I’ve got to find something more stable to do with my life.’ That was it. He was calling it quits. I asked him ‘Are you saying the band is over?’ He said ‘yep’.  So I immediately got on the phone and started calling people up.  I had to have a gig and I had to play music.” He would go on to rejoin Grand Funk two more times, but hasn’t been a part of the group’s lineup since the late ’90s.

There is currently a documentary film in the works on Mark Farner called ‘I’m Your Captain – The Mark Farner Story.’ Funds are still being raised to complete the project with hopes of a 2013 release and PBS airing.

Next: Grand Funk Hits the Top 100 Classic Rock Songs List

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