Happy Birthday: Lou Gramm
Today’s the birthday of Lou Gramm, a man who started out in Black Sheep and later fronted a group called Shadow King, but he’s best known for the band he was in between those two musical entities: Foreigner. To celebrate the occasion of his birth, we’ve got a playlist featuring the singles from his work with Foreigner as well as his singles as a solo artist, but we’ve also pulled together a six-pack of videos from those two eras, and there’s some pretty great viewing there.
1. Foreigner, “Dirty White Boy”(1979) – This track was the first single from the HEAD GAMES album, and it’s apparently about Elvis Presley. That’s what Mick Jones said, anyway: in an interviewed cited on the website SongFacts, he said that Presley “always was that dirty white boy who changed the shape of music completely. [The song] was talking about the kind of heritage that he left, and I think that had an effect on all the musicians that came after, like Mick Jagger. He was also a dirty white boy. Elvis paved the way for that.”
2. Foreigner, “Urgent” (1981) – When it comes to guest musicians on a single, it doesn’t get a whole lot cooler than the guys who chimed in on this track: not only does the sax solo come courtesy of the legendary Junior Walker, but the synth work is by none other than Thomas Dolby.
3. Foreigner, “I Want to Know What Love Is” (1984) – The ‘80s power ballad to end all ‘80s power ballads, this track was written by Jones, and it’s one of the songs he’s most proud of writing, even if he barely takes credit for its composition. “I always worked late at night, when everybody left and the phone stopped ringing,” he told Classic Rock Magazine. "’I Want To Know What Love Is’ came up at three in the morning sometime in 1984. I don’t know where it came from. I consider it a gift that was sent through me. I think there was something bigger than me behind it. I’d say it was probably written entirely by a higher force.”
4. Lou Gramm, “Midnight Blue” (1987) – The first single from Gramm’s first solo album certainly proved that he could deliver a kick-ass pop-rock track on his own. The song climbed to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Hot Album Rock Tracks chart, but arguably its most notable achievement was that R.E.M. covered the song on their 1987 tour. Now that’s a great damned rock track.
5. Lou Gramm, “Just Between You and Me” (1989) – Once again, Gramm delivered a truly great pop-rock track as the first single from his sophomore solo album, LONG HARD LOOK, but in this instance the emphasis was definitely on the pop. It’s got an amazingly catchy chorus, and it was appreciated accordingly, hitting #6 on the Billboard Hot 100.
6. Foreigner, “With Heaven on Our Side"(1992) – An oft-forgotten track because it debuted as one of the handful of new songs included on the 1992 compilation THE VERY BEST…AND BEYOND, which was made irrelevant in 2000 with the release of the two-disc set JUKEBOX HEROES: THE FOREIGNER ANTHOLOGY, which – damn the luck! – failed to find room for the song. Too bad: it was a great comeback for Gramm as Foreigner’s frontman, and it’s a shame that it’s been left in the limbo of the best-of shuffle.