FOREIGNER's KELLY HANSEN Respects LOU GRAMM But Understands Why 'It's Not Always Reciprocal'
February 24, 2023
During a recent episode of The SDR Show, FOREIGNER lead singer Kelly Hansen was asked if the band's original frontman Lou Gramm has been invited to make appearances during the legendary rockers' upcoming farewell tour. (Lou previously shared the stage with Hansen and other members of the current and original FOREIGNER lineup in 2017 and 2018 to celebrate the band's 40th anniversary.) Kelly responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "The door is always open to all the original members, all the surviving members of the band to come and play with us. I encourage that and I really enjoy doing it. I've always loved having those guys and respected everything that they've accomplished, even though sometimes it's not always reciprocal, and I understand why. Because if you're the guy who did the stuff originally and someone's out there doing it now and you're not, I understand. But I'm only trying to extend the legacy and present these songs as faithfully as I can, and I'm not trying to hurt anybody. I'm just trying to do my thing."
Last October, Gramm was asked during an appearance on SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk" what he thought of Hansen, who has been in the group for nearly two decades. "I think he's a good singer," Lou said. "And he sings those songs okay; he sings them good. But he mimics my style right down to the ad-libs, and I'm offended by that… I just think that if he's gonna sing the songs, he could sing the melodies that are familiar, but when it comes to the ad-libs and all the little things that set me aside as a vocalist when I sing them, he should make his own up. He should have his own ad-libs that are his own; he doesn't have to mimic me."
Gramm's latest comments echoed those he made a little over two months earlier when he told John Beaudin of RockHistoryMusic.com about Hansen: "Kelly is all right. He's a good singer. But I think Mick [Jones, FOREIGNER's founding guitarist and leader] really told Kelly, when he first got in the band, that he had to study me, because he sings those songs with the same musical innuendos and vocal licks and ad-libs as I have. He's mimicking me. His voice doesn't sound like me, but he's singing the songs the way I would sing them.
"Some people say, 'Well, take it as a compliment, Lou.' I don't take it as a compliment," Gramm continued. "You're a singer with a big band like that — use your voice and your style. Don't hang your coat on my hook.
"I don't think he should sing the songs verbatim like me," Lou added. "Maybe sing a couple of parts. But let his own influences show — show the fans that he's the new singer now, not me."
Asked what it was like to share the stage with Hansen and other members of the current and original FOREIGNER lineup in 2017 and 2018 to celebrate the band's 40th anniversary, Lou told RockHistoryMusic.com: "It was okay. [Kelly] was bouncing off the walls. He couldn't stand still or sit still. After a song ended, I couldn't even get a word to thank the audience or tell 'em that I was happy to be part of the reunion. At the end of the song, the last song hit, and there wasn't a quarter of a second of space before he was yapping away to the audience… It was, like, 'Jeez, will you quiet down for a minute?'"
Pressed about whether it is "over now" for him and FOREIGNER, Lou said: "I think so, yeah. I don't wanna be a part of it. Well, Ian [McDonald, guitar] has passed away and Ed Gagliardi [bass] passed away, even though he wasn't part of the reunions. Two original members of the six are now gone. And Mick is in very poor health. I think when the new FOREIGNER plays, I've heard that he comes on for one song and then waves and goes offstage. [In the recent past] he would play the whole last half of the set. But then he was in the hospital again for weeks. He had some heart problems and his recovery time was very long and tedious. And I heard that he comes out for one song now — when he comes on. Most of the time FOREIGNER has no original FOREIGNER members in it."
Gramm was the voice on FOREIGNER's biggest hits, including "Feels Like The First Time" and "Cold As Ice" from the band's eponymous debut in 1977, and later songs like "Hot Blooded" and "I Want to Know What Love Is".
The 72-year-old Gramm left FOREIGNER for good in 2002 and has battled health issues in recent years, including the removal of a non-cancerous tumor. He told the Democrat & Chronicle in 2018 that he was planning to retire, but still reunited with FOREIGNER for several shows that year.
FOREIGNER replaced Gramm with Hansen in 2005. Jones, the only remaining original member of FOREIGNER, suffered from some health issues beginning in 2011, eventually resulting in heart surgery in 2012.
Gramm and Jones's June 2013 performance of "I Want To Know What Love Is" and "Juke Box Hero" at the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in New York City marked the first time the pair performed together in a decade after Gramm left FOREIGNER for a second time. Hansen has fronted the group for the past 18 years.
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