Grand Funk's frontman to rock Jackson arena

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Oct. 1, 2009

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(Courtesy photo)

Mark Farner, the former vocalist and guitarist for Grand Funk Railroad.

After four decades in music, Mark Farner is ready to rock the Navajo Nation.

Farner, the former vocalist and guitarist for Grand Funk Railroad, will perform Oct. 17 at the Dean C. Jackson Memorial Arena.

Farner will headline the Classic Rock and Metal Fest. This will be his first visit to the Navajo Nation, a trip he is happy to make.

"I'm looking forward to playing music and the company of my brothers and sisters," he said in a Sept. 22 telephone interview from his home in Michigan.

Fans will be treated to a live performance of classic Grand Funk songs, along with material from Farner's solo work.

Farner, 60, is no stranger to Indian Country. He was presented with the Lakota Sioux Elders Honor Mark in 1999 and received the Cherokee Medal of Honor by the Cherokee Honor Society in 2004.

Both ceremonies honored Farner's Cherokee heritage on his mother's side and for the social contributions he has made during his career.

Throughout the years, Farner has studied the history of the Cherokee people and the way he conducts parts of his life are influenced by Native American beliefs.

When Farner hunts on his property, which he was planning to do after the interview, he's not out for a trophy but to provide for his family.

He and his wife, Leisa, go walking each day to communicate with the natural world that surrounds their home.

"My heart always beats with the desire and influence of Mother Earth," he said.

Farner formed Grand Funk Railroad in 1969 with vocalist and drummer Don Brewer and bassist Mel Schacher. The trio burst onto the American rock scene after playing the Atlanta International Pop Festival as unknowns.

The band's momentum continued with hits such as "We're An American Band," "Some Kind of Wonderful" and a remake of Little Eva's "The Loco-Motion."

After Grand Funk disbanded in 1977, Farner released two solo albums, a self-titled album in 1977 and "No Frills" in 1978.

In 1980 the band reunited, this time without Schacher, before disbanding again in 1983.

Following years of solo projects in both rock and Christian contemporary music, Farner joined Schacher and Brewer for a reunion tour in 1997.

After the conclusion of the tour in 1999, Farner returned to his solo career while Brewer and Schacher continued to perform as Grand Funk Railroad.

Farner's last album, "For the People," was released in 2006.

Later this year, Farner and his band will shoot a video for a new song, "Hot Girls," in addition to working on a new album.

As a child growing up in Flint, Mich., Farner said he walked past the 11,000-seat Atwood Stadium with dreams of playing there someday. Grand Funk never played Atwood, though it rocked Flint's IMA Sports Arena (now known as the Perani Arena and Event Center).

Farner's dream of playing Atwood finally came true in August, when he headlined an all-day concert after receiving the key to the city. Accepting the key to his hometown is among Farner's proudest professional achievements.

Another accomplishment was in 1971, when Grand Funk sold out a two-night stay at New York's Shea Stadium in less than 72 hours, breaking the record held by the Beatles.

Throughout Farner's career he has reserved a special regard for members of the armed forces, especially those who served during the Vietnam War.

"They're my brothers," he said.

He earned the nickname "The Rock Patriot" when Grand Funk participated in U.S.O. tours.

In 2007, the Vietnam Veterans of America asked Farner to headline a concert to mark the 25th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The invitation was prompted by the popularity of his song, "I'm Your Captain (Closer to Home)," which received the most votes from Vietnam veterans as their favorite song from that era.

This year Farner is celebrating 40 years of playing rock music and has no immediate plans to hang up his guitar.

"I'm going strong and love what I do," he said.

Tickets for the Classic Rock and Metal Fest are available at Quintana's Music and De Chavez Music in Gallup, and at Cool Runnings in St. Michaels, Ariz. The price is $20 in advance until Oct. 14 and $30 after that.

Local bands Dark Divinity, the Creeping Puppets, Blood Rot and Blind Dryve will open the show. Gates open at 2 p.m.

Information: Native Star Presents, 928-206-3764 or 928-865-1006, or

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