Midweek Music Moment: Desperately clinging to celebrity

Last week, I was driving home from work and saw a billboard for an area casino’s summer concerts. The top right was emblazoned with “Grand Funk Railroad” with a picture of five guys beneath it. Wait a minute. Grand Funk was one of the original American and a highly popular power trio. Meanwhile, next Thursday Creedence Clearwater Revisited is performing at the local fairgrounds. In both cases, the only original members of those bands are the rhythm sections — the bass player and drummer.

Granted, Grand Funk’s rhythm section is two thirds of the original band (which also added a keyboardist along the way). And I’ve always loved bassist’s Mel Schacher’s work, which Homer Simpson once fittingly described as “bong-rattling.” But anyone familiar with teh band and its music knows that guitarist Mark Farner was the band’s vital force. He wrote most of the songs (many of which were surprisingly political), sang lead and is a helluva guitar player. Grand Funk without Farner simply is not Grand Funk. Fortunately, a friend and I saw them several years ago when Farner was temporarily reunited with the band.

Likewise, although Creedence Clearwater Revisited’s name distinguishes it from the original Creedence Clearwater Revival, bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford were even less of a driving force in the original Creedence Clearwater Revival. Perhaps even more so than Farner, John Fogerty was Creedence Clearwater. Not only was he lead singer and guitarist, his songwriting ranked him among the most respected of the era.

And there certainly isn’t any love lost within the bands themselves. Fogerty lost a legal effort to stop his former bandmates from using the name Creedence Clearwater Revisited. He even refused to perform with them when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. They supposedly were barred from the stage and Fogerty played with a band that included Bruce Springsteen and Robbie Robertson. More recently, Schacher and drummer Don Brewer got an injunction against Farner preventing him from using the names “Grand Funk” or “Grand Funk Railroad” unless it indicates he was a former member of the band. As two-thirds of the legal entity, they get to use the band’s name.

I won’t contest any musician’s efforts to make a living. But why are we Baby Boomers so fascinated with our past that we are willing to go hear ersatz versions of that music?

Is it for pity or pain that I cry?

Grand Funk Railroad, “Winter and My Soul,” Grand Funk

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